Irv Koons papersCreation: 1946-1996 Creation: Majority of material found within 1955-1985
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 papers include marketing research studies, business correspondence, public relations files, and materials from the designer's packaging courses. In addition to this textual component, the archive contains original artwork, sketches, comprehensives, mock-ups, and final product packaging. These materials document not only the career of Irv Koons, but also the growth and development of the packaging industry in the second half of the twentieth century.
- Creation: 1946-1996
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1955-1985
- Koons, Irvin L., 1922-2017 (Person)
68.5 Linear Feet
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.
The collection is divided into five series which are arranged by design project.
Scope and Content
The Irv Koons papers include marketing research studies, business correspondence, public relations files, and materials from the designer's packaging courses. In addition to this textual component, the archive contains original artwork, sketches, comprehensives, mock-ups, and final product packaging. These materials document not only the career of Irv Koons, but also the growth and development of the packaging industry in the second half of the twentieth century.
The collection is divided into five series which are arranged by design project. These materials document not only the career of Irv Koons, but also the growth and development of the packaging industry in the second half of the twentieth century.
Series I consists of Irv Koons's business records. These files are divided into three sub-series which contain correspondence with clients, marketing research studies, and public relations material.
Sub-Series A consists of correspondence files which relate primarily to routine matters such as design schedules and billing procedures.
Sub-Series B contains marketing research studies which provide detailed assessments of consumer attitudes and preferences as well as presenting strategies for improving products' market position relative to leading competitors.
Sub-Series C contains Koons's advertising and public relations files which consist of packaging articles, journal reprints and trade publications, as well as the designer's speeches and presentations. In addition, this sub-series includes files from the International Design Assistance Commission's volunteer program which provided design assistance for developing nations, and the Package Designers Council ceremony honoring Irv Koons as Packaging Person of the Year.
Series II consists of teaching materials used by Irv Koons in his packaging seminars, particularly the Fundamental of Packaging Seminar, an intensive three day course developed as part of a curriculum for design professionals offered by New York University's School of Continuing Education. This course briefly covered the history of packaging and every aspect of the design process from research and development through final production. It was based on earlier seminars which Koons had conducted under the auspices of the Package Designers Council. In addition to Koons's syllabus, lecture notes, and supplementary course materials, the records in this series include seminar and conference bulletins, packaging and design newsletters, a clippings file, conference papers, and manufacturers' catalogs and product specifications for various packaging materials.
Series III contains artwork created by Irv Koons Associates which document each stage of the creative process from development of the initial concept through creation of the final design approved for production. This series contains rough and finished sketches, comprehensives, mock-ups, mechanicals, and finished artwork for numerous package design projects. These materials are arranged alphabetically by company and grouped by media.
Series IV contains final product packaging as it would be presented to consumers in a retail setting. This packaging represents the culmination of the design process and documents the evolution of marketing strategies and design concepts for leading brands in numerous product categories. These materials are arranged alphabetically by company.
Series V contains advertising posters and packaging labels designed by Irv Koons Associates.
Existence and Location of Copies
View selected items in the Hagley Digital Archives.
No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.
Literary rights retained by donor.
Language of Materials
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.
Much of the descriptive information was provided by Irvin Koons.
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- Irv Koons papers
- Mike Nash and Marsha Mills
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