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Irv Koons photographs

1894-1988
 Collection
Accession: 1996-315

Abstract

Irv Koons (1922-2017) was a graphic artist, designer, and illustrator who became one of the leading consumer package designers of the twentieth century. The photographic collection contains slides, negatives, color transparencies, and prints documenting all of Koons's major design projects over the course of his long career as a package designer.

Dates

  • 1894-1988

Creator

Extent

16 Linear Feet

Physical Description

8660 slides : color ; 35mm. 73 negatives : b&w ; 8 x 10 in. 898 negatives : b&w ; 35mm. 180 negatives : color ; 35mm. 6 negatives : b&w ; 5 x 7 in. 141 negatives : b&w ; 4 x 5 in. approx. 50 contact prints : color ; 4x6 in. and smaller. 87 transparencies : color ; 5 x 8 in. 58 transparencies : color ; 5 x 7 in. 1000 transparencies : color ; 8 x 10 in. 272 transparencies : color ; 120s. approx. 902 transparencies : color ; 4 x 5 in. 35 photographic prints : b&w ; 5 x 7 in. 7 photographic prints : color ; 5 x 7 in. 80 photographic prints : color. 500 photographic prints : b&w ; 8 x 10 in. 126 photographic prints : b&w ; 12 x 15 in. 22 photographic prints : color ; 12 x 15 in. 26 photographic prints : color ; 16 x 20 in.

Biographical Note

Irv Koons (1922-2017) was a graphic artist, designer, and illustrator who became one of the leading consumer package designers of the twentieth century. Koons was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on March 14, 1922. As a young man, Koons became interested in typography while working in his father's print shop. Koons studied art at the Pratt Institute in New York before being drafted into the Army in 1942. During the Second World War, he served in the China, Burma, and India Theatre as art director for the Army's Information and Education Program. While stationed in New Delhi, Koons helped organize the first International Art Exhibition held in India and was instrumental in the founding of the National Art Gallery of India. Following the war, Koons studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Fontainebleau, France. After returning to New York, he worked briefly in the publishing industry as a graphic designer and illustrator before establishing his own industrial design firm, Irv Koons Associates, Inc., in 1949.

During a career which spanned nearly fifty years, Koons earned a reputation as one of the most innovative and influential designers in the packaging industry. He has won awards in nearly every major packaging competition, including being named Packaging Person of the Year by the Packaging Designers Council in 1982, an honor which had been bestowed only three times previously. His clients have included Revlon, Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, Inc., Consolidated Cigar Corporation, Clairol/Bristol-Myers, C. F. Mueller Company, Johnson & Johnson, Proctor & Gamble, Scott Paper Company, and American Can Company, manufacturer of Dixie Cups.

Koons's work demonstrates a special affinity for repositioning familiar products by creating a fresh presentation which resonates with contemporary consumer culture. In his view, the package serves as a perpetual "silent salesman" for the product. According to Koons, reliance upon expensive advertising and promotion is unnecessary for products to be commercially viable in a competitive marketplace. Because most products are similar in quality, packaging provides the consumer with a means of differentiating between competing brands. Koons's extensive use of market research studies enabled him to gain a better understanding of consumers' lifestyles and to construct demographic profiles which proved invaluable in the creation of packaging which appealed to large segments of the buying public. By immediately communicating all of a product's positive attributes, the package presents a unique personality which can motivate consumers to buy a particular brand and continue to use it following their initial purchase.

Koons worked tirelessly to promote a better understanding of the role of packaging in the successful marketing of commercial products and a greater appreciation for the historical importance of packaging. Koons has lectured and taught extensively and his packaging designs have been featured in leading industrial design publications. He developed a packaging education curriculum for New York University's School of Continuing Education which included intensive professional seminars on packaging design and product marketing.

In 1981, Irv Koons Associates was bought by the advertising agency of Saatchi and Saatchi. Koons retired as CEO and creative head in 1988 and devoted his retirement years to promoting design work in developing countries. Koons died near his home of Closter, New Jersey, on September 10, 2017.

Koons believed that the industrial design community, which has directed so much of its creative energies to influencing the buying habits of a largely affluent consumer population, has a broader social responsibility to extend this prosperity to those who are less fortunate. Koons has served as a cultural attache to the State Department and directed the first international packaging exhibition which traveled under the auspices of the United States Information Agency. He was also founding director of the International Design Assistance Commission, providing voluntary professional design consulting services to developing nations in cooperation with the United Nations Development Program. Koons designed a fifty-foot stained glass wall depicting Biblical events which serves as the centerpiece for the main conference room for the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies.

Scope and Contents

The photographic collection contains slides, negatives, color transparencies, and prints documenting all of Koons's major design projects over the course of his long career as a package designer. It is a rather thorough documentation of the many projects that Koons was involved with during his long fruitful professional career.

These materials are arranged into five series by format. They are organized alphabetically by company and image size.

There are also six audio cassette tapes of presentations given by Koons on liquor, food, tobacco, health and beauty, and a general presentation.

The slide collection contains more than 6,000 images and is accompanied by a 330 page business narrative.

Food packaging is the primary industry represented with products such as Skippy Peanut Butter, Hellman's Mayonnaise, Mueller's Pasta, Chun King Frozen Foods, Knorr Soup Mix, Abbotts Old Philadelphia Ice Cream, Tetley Tea, among others. The food companies most represented is CPC International (Best Foods Division) and Fairmont Foods Company (Abbotts Dairies, Inc.); others are C.F. Mueller Co., Chas. F. Cates and Sons, Inc., Chun King Corporation, and Beechnut, Inc. to name a few.

There is a considerable amount of examples of Koons work for Consolidated Cigar Corporation and Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, Inc.

Hygiene products are well represented such as shampoo, soap, deodorants, and hair brushes. Clairol, Inc./Bristol-Myers Company and Solo Products Corporation are the most represented companies, others are American Cyanamid Company, and Pharmacraft.

Paper products such as facial tissues, paper cups and plates are well-documented with clients such as the American Can Company (Dixie Products), Scott Paper Company, and the Hudson Pulp and Paper Corporation.

There are a few examples of toy related designs for the Ideal Toy Corporation: Crissy and Kerry Doll, the Marx Toys: Navarone Play Set, and Sieper Werke GmbH (Siku® Eurobilt™): Die-cast model cars.

Although Revlon, Inc. and Johnson & Johnson were two prominent clients of Koons, there are barely any examples of his designs for these companies in the collection.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Literary rights retained by donor.

Related Materials

Irv Koons memorabilia (Accession 2716), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Artifacts from Irv Koons's personal packaging collection includes lucite models for bottle designs and numerous product samples designed by Irv Koons Associates, as well as a collection of historical packaging that documents changes in packaging design and served as a source of inspiration for Koons's own projects. These materials are part of the Hagley Museum Division Collections and are housed at the Hall of Records. For access, please contact Curator of Museum Collections. Advance notice is required.

Language of Materials

English


Additional Information

Additional Description

Separated Materials

Irv Koons papers (Accession 2132), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Processing Note

Much of the descriptive information was provided by Irvin Koons.

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
Irvin Koons photographs
Status:
Author:
Mike Nash and Marsha Mills
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
English
Script of description:
Latin

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Audiovisual Collections Repository

Contact:
PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA
302-658-2400