A poster featuring blue block lettering and the word “free” in bright red announcing late-night museum openings in New York City, sponsored by Mobil, is in the permanent collection of the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany.
“Basically, for me, if a word was a beautiful word, it wasn’t the sound of the word that intrigued me but the look of the word,” Mr. Peckolick (pronounced PECK-oh-lick) told The Huffington Post in 2015. “I saw each letterform as a piece of design. Cat is not ‘cat’ — it’s c-a-t. That’s what led to the beginning of the expressive topography.”
Seymour Chwast, a fellow designer and illustrator, said in an email that Mr. Peckolick “was totally dedicated to design, its history, its function and what it might offer in the future.”
Eventually fed up with being a rainmaker for the advertising agencies he worked for, diverting his creative his energies to courting clients, Mr. Peckolick took up painting. As an artist, he was captivated by weathered billboards and their faded evocations of a vanishing cityscape.
“Signage has been covered so often by photography that as a subject it is a commonplace,” Grace Glueck of The New York Times wrote in reviewing an exhibition of his work at a SoHo gallery in 2002, “but Mr. Peckolick, good at the colors and textures of erosion, nicely captures the sense of time past that gives these brief messages their nostalgic appeal.”
Alan Jay Peckolick was born on Oct. 3, 1940, in the Bronx to Charles Peckolick, a letter carrier (actual letters, not the kind his son would work with) and the former Belle Binenbaum.
“I never knew anything about design or graphics or any of those fancy words,” Mr. Peckolick recalled in 2015. “But I used to draw. I used to draw everything. When my mother used to send me out to get groceries, by the time I was back there were little drawings on the grocery bags.”
He graduated from Elmont Memorial High School on Long Island, just across the Queens border, after which, he said: “My…