I recently acquired a new treasure, a new monograph on the illustrator John Alcorn called “John Alcorn – Evolution by Design.” I say illustrator because that’s how I know his work. I was introduced to him in the early 80s through his clever, whimsical and delightful pen and ink drawings that graced the pages of design and illustration annuals of the time.

I had lost touch with his work until I discovered this exquisite, oversized book in, of all places, the Moleskine store. Moleskine joined the ranks of art book publishers with a series of compendiums of the sketchbook output of artists, designers and architects. “John Alcorn – Evolution by Design” is among their first titles to go beyond that original format and they have done a terrific job.

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My favorite image in the book

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The book is curated and co-written by Alcorn’s son Steven. The younger Alcorn provides marvelous insight into all phases of the older Alcorn’s career. From his first days as a professional, working at the legendary Push Pin Studios, to his CBS days under the tutelage of Lou Dorfsman, and on to his long and varied solo career.

The book is a true testament to Alcorn’s prolific output, his varied style and evolution as an illustrator. But the biggest surprise to me was his skill level as a graphic designer. I learned so much about the man whose work I admired so long ago, including his untimely death at the age of 56 in 1992. However, I was disappointed with the lack of information about his death. It leads the reader to wonder what happened instead of what could have been.

All in all, a must have in my library.

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