By Mary A. Sego
Primary Creator: Gowan, Al
Extent: 0.95 Cubic feet. More info below.
Date Acquired: 05/08/2010
Albert J. Gowan grew up in East St. Louis, Illinois, the son of a steel-worker family. He studied at Southern Illinois University, 1953-1955, where he first gained an appreciation for the impact designers can have in contributing to the socio-economic change in people’s lives.
He went on to an advertising agency job in St. Louis for two years, then for two more years was an artist-designer with a church publishing house in Nashville, Tennessee, and in 1959 he returned to Southern Illinois University to study with R. Buckminster Fuller. An opportunity became available for a job in Columbia, Missouri with a publishing firm, so he left Southern Illinois University and enrolled in the University of Missouri. While working full-time jobs, he earned a B.A. degree in 1964.
Gowan began teaching at Indiana University in 1964 and for two years he practiced and preached the role of the visual designer as a social force. He came to Purdue as an assistant professor in 1966 when the Department of Creative Arts expanded its design program to include the responsibility of designers in society, under the direction of Professor Victor Papanek.
Soon he was chairman of the visual design section, involved in teaching what is generally labeled commercial art in many schools to about 60 undergraduates and a dozen or so graduate students annually.
From 1957 to 1985, he won more than thirty medals and awards for posters, packaging, catalog design, logo design, and filmmaking in art director’s competitions in Nashville, Tennessee, St. Louis, Missouri, Indianapolis, Indiana, Chicago, Illinois, and Boston, Massachusetts.
He takes special pride in accomplishments of students, some of which have won distinction while still students. One such student, Dan Estes, designed the official Purdue University centennial logo, several have won professional awards in competition with professionals, and some have stepped into directorships upon graduation.
Gowan has stated that designing the Purdue seal became just another way to demonstrate the validity of his ideas. But he is quick to point out that it was a team effort – the same process needed to solve society’s problems. It is this kind of cooperation he promotes among students, “I just try to help them find a sense of personal satisfaction in solving some pressing problems through their specialty.” “We’ve all got to be concerned about the environment which can kill. We’re never idle, “Something is always working – even if it’s only our stomachs growling.”
Gowan left Purdue in 1970. He is now Professor Emeritus of Design, Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
Access Restrictions: Collection is open for research.
Use Restrictions: Purdue University per deed of gift.
Acquisition Source: Albert Gowan
Acquisition Method: Donations received from Al Gowan, May 8, 2010, November 9, 2010 and May 13, 2011. Additional donations were given on August 18, 2010 by Professor Robert W. Sovinski, Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Purdue College of Agriculture.
Report to university resources policy committee. Purdue seal grant, number 0001-56-352, PRF general fund-Gowan. April 14, 1967. March 1, 1968 located in Archives & Special Collections - Bruce Rogers Collection call# 808.861 P9725r
Purdue Crest: a visual history / by Michael Horoho located in Archives & Special Collections - Purdue History call # 929.82 H785p 1992
Processing Information: Whenever possible, original order of the materials has been retained. All materials have been housed in polyester sleeves, acid-free folders, and acid-free boxes. Some clippings containing images of people or color graphics, or front pages of newspapers, have been preserved for display purposes, with photocopies made available for research. Oversized material has been separated and grouped into an individual box for preservation purposes.
1. Image of the first Purdue seal designed by Bruce Rogers, along with a copy of the cover of the Annual Register of 1890-91 on which it appeared, 1890
2. Image of the second design, also drawn by Rogers, which first appeared on the cover of the Exponent’s October 1 issue of 1894
3. Image of the third design by Abby Phelps Lytle, who was asked by the University Administration to design it, while she was head of the art department. Also includes a copy of the cover of the School of Pharmacy, Purdue University, Twelfth Annual Catalogue, 1895-96 and a copy of the Bulletin of Purdue University, Annual Catalogue, 1903-1904. The image was in use from 1895-1909.
4. Image of the fourth design, speculated to have been designed by engineering students, which was a bronze casting not suitable for reproduction, 1905
5. Image of fifth design; working from a sketch by Mrs. Marion Woodbury, his daughter, Charles H. Benjamin, Dean of Engineering designed this 1909 design. [The shield was reduced in size and the symbols reduced to three. The griffin now held a Roman lamp of learning. The design was used for the next sixty years.]
6. Image of sixth variation; appeared in the Semi-Centennial Alumni Record of 1924. [This variation separates the griffin, the shield, and the banner from their positions on the Benjamin version. The design has appeared in Memorial Union publications from time to time. The designer is unknown.]
7. Image and negative of seventh design by Bruce Rogers, 1947 [includes a copy of the cover of the Bulletin of Purdue University, Catalogue Number for the Sessions of 1946-1947 and Purdue University stationery on which the seventh design appears]
8. Image of the eighth variation appears on a supplemental sheet of seal designs. Commissioned by Robert W. Babcock, it was an attempt to simplify the Benjamin design. It appears in the March 1947 issue of Campus Copy, included among the papers in this folder. After seeking faculty opinion, the University continued to use the Benjamin seal instead.
9. Two images of ninth Purdue seal design by Al Gowan, then assistant professor of the new School of Creative Arts, 1968 [He remained faithful to the calligraphic style of the Lytle seal of 1895. Rather than defining the curriculum, which is subject to change, Gowan felt the seal should represent the three permanent aims of the University: education, research and service. The images show the griffin with six feathers, but that was later changed to five feathers]
10. Negative of seal, 2 inches with six feathered griffin, 1968
11. Two gold, 3.5 inch seals with original six feathered griffin, 1968
12. One black, 3.5 inch seal with original six feathered griffin, 1968
13. Negative of original six feathered griffin, 8”, 1968
14. Paper, 8 inch, gold, original six feathered griffin, 1968
15. Paper, 10 inch, gold, original six feathered griffin, 1968 [in fragile condition]
16. Image, 10 inch, black seal, original six feathered griffin, 1968
17. Two transparencies of original, six feathered griffin, 3 inches, 1968
18. Two sheets that show the progressive changes of the Purdue seal from 1890-1968
19. Baynes, Margaret. (1943, August 31). History of University Seal Revealed By W.M. Hepburn. Purdue Exponent, pp. unknown [photocopy of article]
20. Reeder, John. (1948, November 5). History of Unofficial University Seal Related. [no publication title, page numbers available; photocopy of article]
21. Author, date unknown. The Story Of The Seal. Campus Copy, p. 3 [photocopy of article, follow up to March 1947 story which featured the seventh design by Rogers and the eighth design by Babcock]
22. Hepburn, William M. (no date). Bruce Rogers of Purdue. Purdue Alumnus, volume 33, no. 5, pp. 6-7, 21-22 [page 21 missing, photocopy of article]
23. Author, date, publication and pages unknown. If Topless Go-Go Girls Shock You, Take a Look at Virginia State Seal. [copy of seal and part of text of article, last part of article missing]
24. Seal of the Purdue Trustees, no date [simple “P”, with “Purdue University Seal of The Trustees” around the “P”]
25. Embossed “P”, no date
26. Images of the seals for the Big 10 Universities, State University of New York and Virginia, no dates
27. Three sheets of negatives of seals of Big 10 Universities, State University of New York and Virginia, no date