From Dieter Rams to Alan Fletcher: Designers on their design heroes

Written by: Aimée McLaughlin
Published on: 29 Mar 2017

Last week, we wrote about a new book which spotlights 500 notable graphic designs dating back to the 15th century and makes connections between projects that have influenced others. Now we ask designers which figures have had the greatest influence on their own work?


Angus Hyland, partner at Pentagram Design and consultant creative director at Laurence King Publishing

“By virtue of the fact that I’ve been a partner here at Pentagram for nearly twenty years, I have to include among my design heroes two of the founding partners of the firm – Alan Fletcher and Colin Forbes, who are the heart and head of our graphic design DNA.

I also include Peter Saville. I first became aware of his work at school through an article in The Face magazine and he subsequently became my summer employer/mentor during my college years.

Finally, Bruno Monguzzi. In my mind, he is the first designer to have successfully aligned the rigour of Swiss modernism with the relaxed charm of 1960s Anglo-American graphics. He is my ultimate graphic hero.”

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Lance Wyman, graphic designer © Neila

“I remember being influenced by designs before I knew what a designer was. European heraldry that I probably saw in the comic strip Prince Valiant, World War Two military insignias that my father brought home, the ram horns on the Los Angeles Rams American football helmets.

I discovered graphic design in my early 20s when I met a student studying with Paul Rand at Yale. Besides Rand, Saul Bass, Leo Leoni and the work of Chermayeff & Geismar and Pentagram were early influences.

I was probably most influenced by Robert Brownjohn. He transformed the obvious into visual communication that was original, powerful, had wit and humour, and has survived. It is good to see him being rediscovered.”


Angela Drinkall, partner, Drinkall Dean

“This is hard as my list is ever increasing, however, I will go to my formative years and site my dear friend and old housemate, the late, wonderful Sandra Douglas, who endlessly inspired me. She worked alongside the equally inspiring Ben Kelly on The Hacienda and Dry Bar. I was so jealous!

Otherwise, Edward Gordon Craig who I studied for my dissertation. Later at the Royal College of Art I fell into the work of Pierre Chareau and Eileen Gray among others, but when I discovered the ‘deconstructivist’ architecture of Coop Himmelblau it was mind blowing.

For me they all blur the lines between architecture, art and design, and that inspires me.”


Mike Dempsey, founder, Studio Dempsey

“Beginnings: My mother and Walt Disney for encouraging me to draw.

Teachers: Josef Muller-Brockmann taught me to understand space, structure, discipline and rules, in order to be confident to break them.

Inspirers: Saul Bass, Stephen Frankfurt for making graphics move. Lou Dorfsman for sheer US chutzpah.

1960s Influencers: Jack Larkin for having the confidence to combine humour and graphics.

Heroes: David Gentleman for his craft, quality and individuality. John Gorham for his staggering versatility and the beauty of his work.

Humanity: David Abbott (not a designer) for teaching me to love, understand and respect the power of writing. Oskar Altherr for his integrity, modesty and wisdom – ‘the work should speak, not the individual’.”


Karen Hughes, founder and creative director, Edit_Brand Studio

“Every project is a blank sheet of paper and my influences change daily, often coming from the most unexpected places. That excites me. The ability to evolve and change your mind and your style, to work with and be inspired by a variety of different designers and influences.

Saying that, of late, Dieter Rams has become increasingly influential not just in my approach to projects but our general studio ethos. After recently setting up Edit_ this principle of “less, but better” particularly resonates. The idea of stripping things back, removing the unnecessary, cutting out the fuss and getting to the guts of what really matters.”