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Irv Koons memorabilia

Creation: 2017 Creation: undated
Accession: 2716
View selected items online in the Hagley Digital Archives.
View selected items online in the Hagley Digital Archives.


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 Irv Koons memorabilia includes a small sample of holiday greeting cards designed by Koons and sent to clients and friends as well as items from Koons's funeral in 2017.


  • Creation: 2017
  • Creation: undated



18 item(s)

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

This collection of Irv Koons memorabilia consists in part of a small sample of holiday greeting cards designed by Koons that were sent to clients and friends. Most of the cards bear a message of "Love, Peace, Happiness" or variations thereof. Each card design is unique and includes forms such as die-cut paper creations that also reflect Koons's principle design philosophy used throughout his career. In addition to the greeting cards, the collection also includes memorial cards, the eulogy, and program from Irv Koons's funeral, which took place September 12, 2017. The funeral program features photos and art designed by Koons during his career.

Existence and Location of Copies

View selected items in the Hagley Digital Archives.

Access Restrictions

No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.

Related Materials

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

Irv Koons photographs (Accession 1996.315), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives 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


Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Irv Koons memorabilia
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Revision Statements

  • 2020: Ashley Williams

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA