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Albert J. Gowan papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSF 474

Scope and Contents

The Albert J. Gowan papers document Albert J. Gowan's involvement in the design of the Purdue University seal, Purdue centennial material, and Krannert logo, along with miscellaneous items, such as press clippings related to the projects. Information on the various designs of the Purdue seal proceeding Gowan's 1968 design is also included among the papers. The press material also provides key information on the Purdue seal, Purdue centennial graphic materials, and the design of the Krannert School logo and cover proposal for Krannert Master's in Industrial Administration. The Purdue centennial material was the graduate thesis project of Dan Estes, and Gowan was his faculty advisor. Also included within the papers is a file related to Estes' thesis project.


  • 1890 - 2011
  • Majority of material found within 1968 - 1969


Language of Materials

Collection material is in English.

Access Information

Collection is open for research.

Copyright and Use Information

Material copyrights held by Purdue University or original creator. Consult with Purdue University Archives and Special Collections prior to reproduction of materials.

Biographical Information

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 Bachelor of Arts degree in 1964. His career centered around design and creative writing. Per his obituary, "His encounter with Harold Cohen and Buckminster Fuller at Southern Illinois University forged his view of design as a force for change. He left advertising to pursue this mission in 1964, launching a teaching career at Indiana University."

Gowan taught at Indiana University for two years and 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 took 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 was quick to point out that it was a team effort – the same process needed to solve society's problems. It was this kind of cooperation he promoted 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 later taught at Boston University School of Art and the Massachusetts College of Art. Albert J. Gowan passed on November 2, 2017.


Purdue People, Number 24, April 1969, Curriculum Vitae, and Boston Globe obituary


0.845 Cubic Feet (One legal-size full-width manuscript box and one flat box)


Whenever possible, original order of the materials has been retained.

Acquisition Information

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.

Related Materials

Purdue University. Report to University Resources Policy Committee : Purdue Seal Grant, Number 0001-56-352, PRF General Fund-Gowan : April 14, 1967, March 1, 1968. (1968). Print.
Horoho, Michael., and Twinrocker Paper Mill, Papermaker. The Purdue Crest : A Visual History (1992). Print.

Processing Information

All materials have been housed in acid-free folders, and acid-free boxes. Polyester sleeves were used where warranted for preservation purposes.  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.


Albert J. Gowan papers
Under Review
Mary A. Sego
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Edition statement
Second edition. Collection first completed 2014-04-09.

Revision Statements

  • 2019-10-22: Collection description updated to new standards by Mary A. Sego.

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States