Name: Kevin Sprouls
Grad year: Tyler School of Art ’77
Artist responsible for The Wall Street Journal’s iconic illustration style
The constellations of dots and lines that nestle in the text of the prestigious pages of The Wall Street Journal have for decades depicted newsmakers of the day—from Margaret Thatcher to Donald Trump—becoming nearly as iconic as the Journal’s nameplate.
You can thank Kevin Sprouls for that.
It took only two years after his 1977 graduation from the Tyler School of Art at Temple for Sprouls to work his way onto the paper’s staff as an illustrator, shortly after landing a job at the Journal’s parent company, Dow Jones & Co., in New York City. A Temple connection helped get him in the door, and lunchroom conversations with the paper’s editors and a passion for the craft seemingly did the rest.
The Journal used photographs in advertisements and simple pencil sketches at the time, but was otherwise devoid of art. It was in the sketches that Sprouls saw opportunity to enliven the pages with his pointillistic style, reminiscent of an engraving or stock certificate. The editors went for it, and the intricate illustrations—referred to as the Journal’s “hedcuts”—became a distinct feature of the paper.
“It certainly is a throwback to another time,” Sprouls, a New Jersey native and father of two, said recently in his North Carolina home. “It was a really good fit for the paper.”
Sprouls remained at the Journal until 1987, and helped establish a thriving art department, rising to the rank of assistant art director. He then embarked on a freelance career and has continued connecting the dots to create thousands of illustrations for organizations, people and publications such as Time magazine, The New Yorker and Harper’s magazine.
Today, Sprouls’ pen is housed in the Newseum in Washington, D.C. And despite the Journal’s adoption of photographs and color, and the industry’s shift to the web, the news organization has retained its hallmark hand-drawn illustration style.
In a world without Temple, we might have missed the point.