When he left school, Allan became a reporter and sub-editor on his local paper, the East Anglian Daily Times. Excited by the world of words, pictures and print, he soon headed to London to study graphic design at the London College of Printing, where his final year tutor was the great poster designer Tom Eckersley.
Allan won a Royal Mail scholarship to study illustration at the Royal College of Art when Quentin Blake was the Head of the illustration department. Printmaker Sheila Robinson was Allan's personal tutor, and invited him to visit Saffron Walden to spend time with Edward Bawden who was still hard at work, proving that drawing, design, lettering and commerce can indeed work very well together.
When a team of architects for London Transport visited the college seeking mural designs for London's biggest subway interchange, Holborn station, Allan set to work, and on the advice of sculpture professor Eduardo Paolozzi, he built cardboard model collages in order to visualise the project. Today thousands of travellers every day enjoy the murals that Allan printed by hand as a student, using enamels silkscreened on steel panels.
In 2005 Allan and his family settled in Savannah, Georgia, USA, where he accepted the position of Chair of Illustration at SCAD. During his tenure the department flourished, doubling in size, and Allan's own students were regular winners in national and international student competitions. In the USA Allan continued creating his picture books for Farrar Straus and Giroux in New York. He donated an exhibit of his illustrations for The Journey that Saved Curious George (Houghton Mifflin) to the Anti Defamation League, and the show continues to tour nationwide with Exhibits USA.
Now Allan and his family are safely back home in Suffolk, where Allan continues to illustrate, and to create picture books in a style that remains fresh, contemporary, and quintessentially English. He is also Senior Lecturer in Illustration at the Cambridge School of Art.