Alvin Eisenman, graphic design educator; at 92

NEW YORK — Alvin Eisenman, a graphic designer who in 1951 became the first director of Yale’s graduate program for graphic design, the first offered by a major American university, died Sept. 3 at his home, which he also designed, on Martha’s Vineyard. He was 92.

His death was confirmed by John T. Hill, who studied under Mr. Eisenman and taught with him at Yale.

Mr. Eisenman had designed Army field manuals and books, including the first edition of Paul Samuelson’s classic text “Economics,” before becoming director of Yale’s new design program, appointed by Charles Sawyer, dean of the Yale School of Art and Architecture.


Mr. Eisenman recruited design masters like Alvin Lustig and Herbert Matter to teach and made photography part of the curriculum, enlisting Walker Evans as an instructor.

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Among his students, whom he recruited from around the world, were Garry Trudeau, author of the comic strip “Doonesbury,” and Min Wang, who designed graphics for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Mr. Eisenman encouraged students to embrace high-tech tools, Hill said, and persuaded Steve Jobs to donate early computers to the program.

Emphasizing a holistic approach, Mr. Eisenman believed that students should learn about all aspects of a craft. In a class on book design, they learned paper making, bookbinding, and printing methods. He retired as director in 1990 but continued to teach.

He was born in Dubois, Pa., and studied art at Dartmouth College, where Robert Frost was one of his teachers. He joined the Army Signal Corps and designed field manuals during World War II. After his discharge he designed books for McGraw-Hill and Yale University Press. He also did design work for J.P. Morgan & Co.


Mr. Eisenman, who owned a farm in Bethany, Conn., leaves his wife, the former Hope Greer; two daughters; a son; seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.