Meet the Judges: Alexander Isley

Alexander IsleyMeet the rest of the star-studded panel of Regional Design Awards judges: Sagi Haviv, Rebeca Méndez, Nancy Skolos, Chad Michaels, Gail Anderson, Justin Peters


For more than 35 years, PRINT’s Regional Design Awards has been honoring excellence across all channels of design. Whether you’re a freelancer, part of a large agency, an in-house creative or even a student, your unique work could reign supreme in this widely celebrated competition. 

Behind each RDA is a panel of A-list design experts ready to unearth fresh talent and shine a spotlight on groundbreaking ideas. In this series, we will interview each judge and take a closer look at some of the spectacular work they’ve created during their career.


Alexander Isley: Official Bio Excerpt

Alex first gained recognition in the early 1980s as the senior designer at Tibor Kalman’s influential M&Co. He went on to serve as the first full-time art director of the funny and fearless Spy magazine. In 1988 Alex founded Alexander Isley Inc. in New York City. In 1995 he relocated the firm to Connecticut in order to be closer to trees.

Alex holds a degree in Environmental Design from North Carolina State University and a BFA from The Cooper Union in New York. He has taught graphic design, typography, and exhibit design at Cooper Union, RISD, and the School of Visual Arts. He has served as a lecturer and critic in the graduate program of the Yale School of Art.

In 1993 Alex was named an inaugural member of “The I.D. 40,” a survey of the country’s leading design innovators. His work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Library of Congress.

Alexander Isley is a 2014 recipient of the AIGA medal, the highest honor of the design profession, awarded for lifetime achievement and contribution to the field.

Alex lives in Connecticut with his wife and their three curious children. He becomes unusually agitated in supermarkets and no one can quite understand why.

When he was a boy he met the real Colonel Sanders.

Alexander Isley

Alexander Isley

Do you have a driving philosophy behind your work?

My goal is to make my work seem natural and effortless. A lot of work goes into making something seem effortless.

At the end, when we’re done with an assignment, my hope is for a client to say “I can’t believe we paid you to design this. It’s so obvious. My kid could have done it.”

What was the most important roadblock you faced as a designer?

My biggest recurring challenge came early in my career, when I was always younger than my clients (and in some cases younger than my employees).

Since so much of what we do requires trust, I felt my young face suggested a lack of authority. I remember wishing for the day when I’d have gray hair and wrinkles. I’m here to tell you that dreams do come true.

What would be impossible for you to give up?

When I was a boy all I ever asked for from Santa was a ream of paper and a box of pencils. These are still the things I can’t do without.

Have you ever entered the RDA before?

Yes 

As a judge, what are you hoping to see from the region you’re evaluating?

I’m more interested in ideas than techniques. As the great Bob Gill said (and I’m paraphrasing), if you can describe your design to someone over the phone then you’re working with an idea.

Alexander Isley

New Jersey 9/11 Memorial Inscriptions | Frederic Schwartz Architects

Alexander IsleyAlexander Isley


Alexander Isley

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