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Papers of Irv Koons

Identifier: YUM 05

Scope and Content Note

This collection holds documents that describe the work of the artist Irv Koons. Although the majority of papers are professional in nature, there is also a small amount of personal papers.

The major focus of this collection is on the artist's production of commercial and graphic art for various organizations and companies. The collection holds many sketches and drawings used to produce the artwork, as well as the published copies of finished pieces. Included in this collection are advertisements, posters, periodical and book illustrations, some package designs, report covers, and logos. These types of documents are located in Series II: Professional Papers.

This collection is also comprised of papers detailing Koons's creation of Jewish art. Found among the papers here are sketches, photographs, and a model of the Torah ornaments Koons designed for the Temple Emanu-El in Closter, New Jersey, as well as photographs and sketches of the stained glass windows he created for the Temple and for the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies. Material on Koons's Jewish art is also in Series II.

Some personal documents are also among the papers of this collection. These papers include biographical articles, photographs of Irv Koons, certificates noting awards or honors received by the artist, and a few sketches created for family use. All of these items have been placed in Series I: Personal Papers.


  • 1934-2004
  • Majority of material found within 1949-1988


Language of Materials

The collection is mainly in English and Hebrew, with small amounts of Spanish, French, Japanese, and Chinese.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:

Yeshiva University Museum, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011


Biographical Note

Irvin Louis Koons was born on March 14, 1922 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the son of Frank and Rose Koons. His father owned a printing shop. Interested in art from an early age, Irv Koons was designing posters for the holidays and other occasions in grade school. The family moved to Reading, Pennsylvania when Koons was eleven years old. When he was a teenager, Koons assisted his father in designing items for his clients. In high school he became the art editor of the school newspaper, as well as being involved in several other art-related projects. He graduated high school early at the age of sixteen and left Reading for New York City, where he attended Pratt Institute. During his time at Pratt, Irv Koons paid for his tuition by teaching art classes at settlement houses and doing illustrations for publications.

In 1942, when Irv Koons was twenty he entered military service with the U.S. Army. After training in camouflage as well as infantry and amphibious combat, Koons was originally assigned to Fort Meade, Maryland where he designed sets for Broadway performances heading overseas to entertain troops. After this position, Koons worked as a designer and illustrator for the Army Information and Education Program. Eventually he was sent abroad to New Delhi, India, where Koons became the Art Director for the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations; here his main responsibility was the production of weekly newsmaps as well as brochures and other materials to keep the American troops informed. During this time he also worked as an art critic for the newspaper The Statesman.

After the conclusion of the Second World War, Irv Koons began working as an illustrator for Simon and Schuster, where he illustrated the David Dodge book How Green Was My Father. He took classes at the New School in New York City before spending the next several years studying art abroad in France, Italy and Switzerland. Koons continued in his illustration work for Simon and Schuster as well as for Random House. As recognition of his work became more widespread, he began receiving requests for design work from firms. His work turned more often to design projects than illustration and Koons realized he would need more staff to work on his projects. In 1949 he founded his own design firm, Irv Koons Associates.

Among Irv Koons's design work over nearly four decades are included the design of such items as advertisements and trademark logos, packaging, annual reports, and publication materials such as leaflets, brochures, and booklets. Irv Koons worked on projects for numerous companies as well as non-profit organizations. Among his most well-known clients were the American Cancer Society, Barton's Candy, Bristol Laboratories, Bloomingdale's, Metropolitan Life, Mobil, and Seagram's. His illustrations could be found not only in Simon and Schuster and Random House books, but were also featured in periodicals like Fortune, Family Circle, Seventeen, the Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and Sports Illustrated. In 1956 Koons designed the first daily offset newspaper in the world, the Middletown Daily Record. He also designed items for various Jewish organizations, including advertising and publications for the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies in New York, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, the American Jewish Tercentenary, the American Jewish Heritage Commission, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, and several synagogues and community centers. Irv Koons also created some Jewish art pieces, including Torah ornaments for the Temple Emanu-El in Closter, New Jersey in 1986 and stained glass windows for the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York in 1975.

In 1981 Irv Koons Associates was bought by the advertising firm Saatchi and Saatchi. Koons resigned his position as Chief Executive Officer and Creative Head in 1988 and accepted a voluntary appointment as the Senior Advisor to the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme. He also helped to found the International Design Assistance Commission in 1984, which is a volunteer organization that concerns itself with performing design work for developing countries.

Over the years, Irv Koons has written many articles on topics such as package design and marketing, as well as occasionally serving in an editorial position for several publications. He has also lectured both nationally and internationally at places such as New York University, Columbia University, Wharton University, the University of Pennsylvania, the World Trade Organzation, the American Management Association, and the China-United States Scientific Exchange, and at institutions abroad in England, Holland, China, Brazil, South Africa, and Israel. Koons's work has won numerous awards for marketing, packaging, and advertising. In 1982 he was named the Packaging Person of the Year by the Packaging Designers Council International. His products have won Clio awards several times, including three gold Clios, and his work is included in collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, the Jewish Museum, the Hagley Museum, and Yeshiva University Museum.

Irv Koons passed away on September 10, 2017


6.54 Linear Feet


This collection documents the work of artist Irv Koons. It is mainly comprised of his professional papers, including sketches and drawings as well as many examples of his completed works. Documents found here include posters, advertisements, brochures, flyers, reports, book illustrations, clippings, photographs of the artist and his work, and a small amount of correspondence. Some biographical information on the artist is also available.


The collection consists of the following two series:

Custodial History

The Irv Koons papers were donated by Irv Koons in 2006.

Eulogy and funeral service program in Box 1, and miscellaneous postcards and posters in Box 6 were donated by Irv Koons family in 2017.

Related Material

The Hagley Museum in Wilmington, Deleware also has a collection of Irv Koons Papers.

Separated Material

Original artwork donated with the archives has been removed and placed in the art collection of the Yeshiva University Museum.

Processing Information

During processing papers were placed in acid-free folders and boxes according to the size of the documents and arranged alphabetically within each of the box types. When necessary, acid-free paper was added between items and metal paperclips were removed. Cardboard mats made of acidic material were removed from the collection and some preservation photocopying occured.

Guide to the Papers of Irv Koons (1922-2017) 1935-2004
Processed by Dianne Ritchey Oummia
© 2006
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Yeshiva University Museum Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States