Alex Isley Celebrates 25

Designer Alex Isley, formerly of M&Co. and SPY magazine, is celebrating his twenty-five year milestone with an exhibition of his work at the Type Directors Club titled “Working With Words.” I asked him to tell us what, during this time, “are the things that you feel are most important to your career?” He responded candidly:  “Over time I’ve learned what I’m good and bad at. Understanding these has helped me a lot:”


Where I think I’m good:

  • In pulling apart complex problems and developing simple plans of action;
  • In demystifying the design process for clients;
  • At gaining people’s trust. It’s amazing how much listening helps in this endeavor;
  • In having the ability to work on several things at once;
  • At knowing how to make the most out of tight budgets;
  • In believing in the power of humor to communicate, even (and especially) if you’re working for stiffs (not that we ever do);
  • At being able to switch off work when I am at home. You have to be able to take a break.

Where I know I’m bad:

  • In being too eager to please;
  • In being a procrastinator;
  • In taking on too much work we shouldn’t do (from the financial point of view) because I just like to create things;
  • In getting out there and beating the bushes for new work and contacts. I admire those who can be outgoing and engaging on demand;
  • In thinking most problems can be solved with words and typography. I often have to remind myself how rewarding and effective collaborating with artists can be;
  • In always being dissatisfied with my work and situation: I believe that if I start to feel content I will lose something important that keeps me wanting to learn and be better. So maybe that’s a plus: Perhaps this part should go under the “Good” section. This is a dilemma.

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The opening of the show is Thursday, February  21st; 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the TDC (347 W 36th St # 603). Maybe we all can learn something from this in time for our own respective anniversaries.


For more Steven Heller, check out The Education of a Graphic Designer, one of the many Heller titles available at

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