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Albert J. Gowan papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSF 474
The Albert J. Gowan papers (1890-2011; 0.95 cubic feet) 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 MS in Industrial Administration.  The Purdue centennial material was the graduate thesis project of Dan Estes, and Gowan was his faculty advisor.  The papers are housed in one legal sized manuscript box, with the oversized material housed in a small flat box.


  • 1890-2011
  • Other: Majority of material found in 1968-1969
  • Other: Date acquired: 08/05/2010


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Purdue University per deed of gift.


0.95 Cubic Feet

1.00 mss._boxes

1.00 flat_box


The papers document Albert J. Gowan’s involvement in the design of the Purdue University seal, Purdue centennial material, Krannert logo and cover proposal for Krannert MS in Industrial Administration, along with miscellaneous items, such as press clippings related to the projects.

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 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 later taught at Boston University School of Art and the Massachusetts College of Art.

Source: Purdue People, Number 24, April 1969 and Curriculum Vitae

Source of Acquisition

Albert Gowan
Method of Acquisition 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.

Existence and Location of Originals

multi-part note content

Related Materials

multi-part note content
Related Publications Collection on the Purdue University Seal (MSP 119:

Collection on Bruce Rogers (MSA 35:

Purdue University. (1968). Report to university resources policy committee: Purdue seal grant, number 0001-56-352, PRF general fund-Gowan: April 14, 1967, March 1, 1968. West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University. 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.


Albert J. Gowan papers
Mary A. Sego
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 W. State Street
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States