Alexander Isley Papers 1967-2021

Summary
Contents
Names/subjects
Using these materials
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Creator
Isley, Alexander, 1961-
Size
163 linear feet (153 archival boxes, 30 flat boxes, 20 flat folders,17 legal boxes, 11 tubes, 8 oversize flat boxes, 7 cartons, 3 videocassette boxes, 2 card boxes, 2 half box, 1 CD box,1 legal half box, 1 vinyl record box); 240 gigabytes; 1 website
Call number
MC 00534

The Alexander Isley Papers, 1967-2020, contains materials related to Alexander Isley’s childhood, schooling, and career as a graphic designer at M&Co., Spy magazine, and Alexander Isley, Inc. These materials include design sketches and drafts, final design samples, financial records, correspondence, press clippings, school records and coursework, memorabilia, and a website.

Alexander Isley (1961- ) is a graphic designer from Durham, North Carolina, who, as of 2019, is creative director of Alexander Isley, Inc. He holds a degree in Environmental Design from the School of Design at North Carolina State University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from The Cooper Union in New York City. From 1984 to 1986 he was the senior designer at the New York City design firm M&Co., then in 1987 became the first full-time art director of Spy, the New York-based satirical monthly magazine. He left Spy in 1988 to start his own design firm, Alexander Isley Inc. Isley has received several design awards, including the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) Medal in 2014. His work can be found in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Library of Congress.

Biographical/historical note

Alexander Isley (1961- ) is a graphic designer from Durham, North Carolina, who, as of 2019, is creative director of Alexander Isley, Inc. He holds a degree in Environmental Design from the School of Design at North Carolina State University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from The Cooper Union in New York City. From 1984 to 1986 he was the senior designer at the New York City design firm M&Co., then in 1987 became the first full-time art director of Spy, the New York-based satirical monthly magazine. He left Spy in 1988 to start his own design firm, Alexander Isley Inc. Isley has received several design awards, including the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) Medal in 2014. His work can be found in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Library of Congress.

Alexander Isley was born November 16, 1961 in Durham, North Carolina. His father, Max Isley, was an architect. From 1968 to 1976, he attended Durham Academy, and at age 14 he began designing and building playgrounds for the children in his neighborhood. His schooling continued with Charles E. Jordan Senior High School from 1976 to 1979, the Governor’s School of North Carolina-East in summer 1979, and the North Carolina School of the Arts from 1979 to 1980. He attended North Carolina State University from 1980 to 1982 and The Cooper Union in New York City from 1982 to 1984, achieving a degree in Environmental Design from NC State and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Cooper Union.

From 1984 to 1986, Alexander Isley was a designer at M&Co., a New York City design firm founded by Tibor Kalman. Isley was hired upon his graduation from Cooper Union by the designer Stephen Doyle, who taught Isley’s senior year portfolio class. Isley became the senior designer at M&Co., responsible for many of the projects developed over the next two years. He left the firm in December, 1986 to be the first, full-time art director at Spy magazine. Spy was an influential and critically-acclaimed, New York-based satirical monthly magazine. He designed 15 issues, working from January 1987 through mid-1988, before leaving to start his own design firm. His work for the magazine was created before digital production became the norm, and was awarded gold and silver medals from the Society of Publication Designers. Isley founded his firm, Alexander Isley Inc., in New York City in 1988, then relocated it to Connecticut in 1995. It continues to be in operation, with Isley as creative director, as of 2019.

Alexander Isley has been an active member of the graphic design community throughout his career. He has taught graphic design, typography, and exhibit design at Cooper Union, the School of Visual Arts, and Rhode Island School of Design, and served as a critic and lecturer in the graduate program of the Yale School of Art. In 1993, Isley was selected as an inaugural member of “The I.D. 40,” a survey of the country’s leading design innovators. In 1998, he was chosen as a member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI), and his membership continues as of 2019. He is a past board member of the North Carolina State University Design Leaders Council, the AIGA Connecticut Advisory Board, and Creative Connections, an international cultural education organization. He was president of AIGA New York from 2004 to 2006, named an AIGA Fellow in 2013, and he received the AIGA Medal in 2014. A reader poll in Graphic Design USA magazine in 2013 named him one of the most influential designers of the past 50 years. Isley has received the NY Art Directors Club Herb Lubalin Memorial Award for Art Direction and Design, the Federal Design Achievement Award, and the NEA International Design Education Fellowship. His work has also been recognized by the Society for Experiential Graphic Design, the American Institute of Architects, and the Webby Awards.

Chronology of Alexander Isley's Life
November 16, 1961
Born in Durham, North Carolina
1968-1976
Attended Durham Academy
1976-1979
Attended Charles E. Jordan Senior High School
Summer 1979
Attended the Governor’s School of North Carolina-East
1979-1980
Attended the North Carolina School of the Arts
1980-1982
Attended North Carolina State University
1982-1984
Attended The Cooper Union
1984-1986
Senior designer at M&Co.
1987-1988
Art Director at Spy magazine
1988
Founded Alexander Isley Inc. in New York City
1993
Named an inaugural member of "The I.D. 40"
1995
Moved Alexander Isley Inc. to Connecticut
1998
Elected a member of Alliance Graphique Internationale
2004-2006
President of AIGA New York
2013
Recipient of AIGA Connecticut's 2013 Fellow award
Named by readers of Graphic Design USA magazine as one of the most influential designers of the past 50 years
2014
Received AIGA Medal

Scope/content

The Alexander Isley Papers, 1967-2020, contains materials related to Alexander Isley’s childhood, schooling, and career as a graphic designer at M&Co., Spy magazine, and Alexander Isley, Inc. These materials include design sketches and drafts, final design samples, financial records, correspondence, press clippings, school records and coursework, memorabilia, and a website.

The majority of the collection documents the work of Alexander Isley’s design firm, Alexander Isley Inc. These materials document the design process as well as finances and interactions with clients. Included are:

  • Design development documents, for example, project schedules, creative briefs, sketches, proposed design options, and drafts with comments
  • Final design samples, for example, stationery, brochures, books, magazines, product packaging, invitations, and 3D objects
  • Financial records, for example, estimates, invoices, bid requests, and expense lists
  • Printed emails and faxes
Some of these materials are born digital, and are contained on CDs, DVDs, magnetic tape data storage, and a hard drive.

Alexander Isley Inc. assigned a number to each of their clients and each of the projects for that client. The lowest possible client or project number is always 11. Client numbers appear first, followed by a hyphen and the project number (for example, 15-11). Whenever a client and/or project number is known to Special Collections, it is included in the container title. If there is only one number (for example, 15), it is the client number. Unknown client numbers are indicated with “no client number”, but unknown project numbers are simply omitted. If “(Dave and Alex Show)” appears in a container title, this indicates that a project was done for the Dave and Alex Show. This was an advertising and marketing communications agency, and a side business of Alexander Isley in collaboration with Dave Goldenberg.

Materials from Alexander Isley’s time working at M&Co. and Spy magazine are also found in this collection. These materials include final design samples, design elements (fonts, stock photographs, illustrations, and handmade design boards), promotional and branded materials, and memorabilia.

This collection also contains copies of articles about or by Alexander Isley, or about Tibor Kalman and M&Co., as well as a regular, ongoing archive of Alexander Isley Inc.’s website.

Materials related to Alexander Isley’s childhood and schooling include coursework, design projects and artwork, grade reports, correspondence, memorabilia, awards, and applications.

Arrangement

The series in this collection are based on the creator’s organization method, and are listed below. The creator grouped collection materials according to these categories, and materials that the creator placed within these categories were kept together. When applicable, he also organized materials within each category according to the design client, and this method has also been maintained.

Series
  1. Final Design Samples
  2. Design Development Documents
  3. Project Documentation
  4. Press Coverage
  5. Spy Magazine
  6. M&Co.
  7. North Carolina State University
  8. School Records and Artwork, Age 6-18
  9. Digital Portfolio Images
  10. Specialty Portfolios
  11. Born Digital
  12. Web Content

Access to the collection

Portions of this collection have restricted access; the remainder of this collection is open for research; access requires at least 48 hours advance notice. Because of the nature of certain archival formats, including digital and audio-visual materials, access will require additional advanced notice. Copies of digital files will be provided for use in the SCRC Reading Room upon request.

While electronic files are made available to researchers, some files may not open with current software or at all. Researchers may be required to find and use legacy software packages to read files.

Additional conditions may apply.

Use of these materials

The nature of the NC State University Libraries' Special Collections means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. The NC State University Libraries claims only physical ownership of most Special Collections materials.

The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

This collection may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which North Carolina State University assumes no responsibility.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Alexander Isley Papers, MC 00534, Special Collections Research Center, NC State University Libraries, Raleigh, NC

Source of acquisition

Gift of Alexander Isley, 2014 (Accession numbers 2014.0265 and 2014.0203), 2015 (Accession numbers 2015.0013, 2015.0067, 2015.0144, 2015.0273), 2016 (Accession number 2016.0126 and 2016.0315), 2017 (Accession no. 2017.0064), 2020 (Accession no. 2020.0015) and 2021 (Accession number 2021.0019). Web content harvested using the Internet Archive's Archive-It services, monthly starting in 2016. Also included are prior captures by the Internet Archive dating back to October 1999, which may be less complete and were performed at undetermined intervals.

Processing information

Processed by: Rachel Jacobson and Gwynn Thayer, January 2015; machine-readable finding aid created by Gwynn Thayer, January 2015; updated by Julie Steinbacher, August 2016; updated by Bennett Chapman and Jennifer Baker March 2017; digital materials processed by Jessica Rayman, May 2017; additional processing by Samantha Thorne October 2019; addition processed and finding aid updated by Shima Hosseininasab, 2020 October; addition processed and finding aid updated by Shima Hosseininasab, 2021 April.

Please note that some historical materials may contain harmful content and/or descriptions. Learn how we’re addressing it.
Please note that some historical materials may contain harmful content and/or descriptions. Learn how we’re addressing it.

Access to the collection

Portions of this collection have restricted access; the remainder of this collection is open for research; access requires at least 48 hours advance notice. Because of the nature of certain archival formats, including digital and audio-visual materials, access will require additional advanced notice. Copies of digital files will be provided for use in the SCRC Reading Room upon request.

While electronic files are made available to researchers, some files may not open with current software or at all. Researchers may be required to find and use legacy software packages to read files.

Additional conditions may apply.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Alexander Isley Papers, MC 00534, NC State University Libraries Special Collections Research Center

Use of these materials

The nature of the NC State University Libraries' Special Collections means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. The NC State University Libraries claims only physical ownership of most Special Collections materials.

The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

This collection may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which North Carolina State University assumes no responsibility.