Alan Siegel, the driving force behind the ‘plain English’ movement of communications simplification, is leaving his namesake branding firm after 43 years. The Siegel+Gale chairman, who co-founded the firm at age 28, now plans to devote his time to personal nonprofit marketing efforts, research and writing.
“I’m very interested in working with nonprofits, people in education, medicine, people who are doing things to improve the world and who don’t have the money to come to Siegel+Gale for help,” he told Adweek. “I’m not retiring. I’m moving sideways.”
His new projects include working on a new Cornell University corporate identity for a science graduate school on NYC's Roosevelt Island; communications work for New York University in its efforts to become a global educational entity; the Alzheimer Foundation of America and the Lupus Foundation of America.
In August, Siegel’s latest book Simple is Smart, co-written with long-time colleague Irene Etzkorn, is also slated to be published by Hachette.
Siegel worked closely with David Srere and Howard Belk in recent years to prepare them to take over as co-CEOs.
In the 1970s, Siegel pioneered the development of plain English for complex legal documents for business and government. He became a high-profile proponent of bringing clarity to business communications such as insurance policies, bank loan notes, mutual fund prospectuses and government communications. In 1979, the IRS asked Siegel to simplify tax forms and the current 1040-EZ form, originally the "short form," grew out of that work. Siegal+Gale went on to work with the Interbank Card Association to form a new global identity for Master Charge, which included the name change to MasterCard. Over the years Siegel has worked with clients like Xerox, American Express, the National Basketball Association, Caterpillar, 3M, the U.S. Air Force and Dell. Omnicom acquired the agency in 2003.
Siegel’s latest transition is a natural outgrowth of a lifelong involvement in a range of outside endeavors, including service on many boards. In addition to his upcoming book, Siegel has been a prolific writer in the media and has authored a series of financial guides for The Wall Street Journal as well as One Man’s Eye: Photographs from the Alan Siegel Collection and Step Right This Way: The Photography of Edward J. Kelty.
On June 1, Siegel leaves his agency's Chelsea digs—but he's not going far. He'll be moving into an office around the corner from The New York Public Library's main branch in Manhattan.