Havinden it all

She made me do it.  (Points to Shelf Appeal at the next desk).  She posted about Ashley Havinden and asked a question.  So then of course I googled.  And found this.

Ashley Havinden Stick To Beer poster

Which meant I had to post it.  I can’t tell you much about it though, other than that it comes from the Penrose Annual 1939 and really should be reproduced right now.  Who needs ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’?

That alone would be enough.  But both Shelf Appeal and the search have reminded me that Mr Havinden was an interesting cove.  He was clearly a man of such prodigious talents.  As well as enlivening socks, it seems that he invented the idea of the brand as personality and was responsible for huge swathes of the Britain Can Make It Exhibition, including its poster.

Ashley Havinden Britain Can Make It Poster

But  he isn’t that well known these days.  Which is strange because I get the impression that just before and after World War Two, he was considered very influential indeed; the man who, along with McKnight Kauffer, brought modernism to Britain.

an illustration about printing Ashley Havinden

I think there are a couple of reasons for this.  One is that he spent most of his working life as an Art Director at the Crawfords Agency.  So not only did a lot of his work perhaps go out anonymously, but he was an art director as much as designer, a back room boy.  Which still made him very influential.  I’ve been flicking through Designers in Britain in search of him, and discovered that he commissioned Tom Eckersley, for instance, to produce this campaign for Eno’s Fruit Salts

Tom Eckersley Eno's Fruit salts advertisement 1947

(Eno’s went from McKnight Kauffer pre-war, to Eckersley in 1947; they always did have good taste in graphics).

But I think Havinden’s other problem is that he didn’t produce many posters.  Which is a daft reason for leaving someone out of the histories, but it is the lens through which graphics of the time are, mainly, viewed.

The few of his posters that I can find seem to have been produced for the war effort.

Ashley Havinden drink milk daily

Ashley Havinden First Aid parties poster

Perhaps there are more – in which case, I’d love to see them.

I’ve got a few more thoughts on why he is perhaps not as well-known as he might be, but they’re going to have to wait until I’ve read this book (for which I also have to thank Shelf Appeal) in case I am completely wrong.

But whatever the book says, I definitely don’t think his obscurity is deserved.  Take a look at these images that he produced in the early 50s (from the 1953 Penrose Annual, which was also on the shelves).  They’re illustrating an article he wrote on “Designing for Fluorescent Printing” (top tip: use a dark background).  He was an artist and a modern, and rather a good one too.

Ashley Havinden from Penrose Annual 1953

Ashley Havinden Penrose Annual 1953

  • I like the way I get the blame for what is just an excuse to blog yet more posters.. Just been reading about Crawfords and think you have the right of it. Yet I wonder if Mr Pick and Mr Crawford might have had a little friendly competition going on, too, and this hampered Havindens chances at the Underground? Would be great to know. I also feel the need to examine the phenomenon of Havinden as fashionable man about town. So watch that shelf appealy space.

  • He was a dapper man about town, wasn’t he. I’m intrigued by the fact that almost all the campaigns he did himself were for menswear (and of course his section of Britain Can Make It). That was clearly what he loved – or thought he could do better than anyone else.

    Did you see this wonderful comment – it’s a response to a review of the Edinburgh exhibition:

    in 1956, as a recent design graduate from Canada, I arrived in London with a portfolio and no contacts. It was a most daunting time for me until the day I arrived on the door-step of Crawford Avertising. I was hired immediately and found myself working in a group headed by Tom Wolsey.

    It was a time when Mark Boxer, Antony-Armstrong Jones and Paul Peter Peach, to name a few, were part of a very young and creative group that Ashley Havinden attracted. He had an eye for talent as well as for fashion. He was the picture of elegance and never hesitated to tell you your hair was too long or your rendering of a particular type font was too ” spidery”. My time working on the Daks/ Simpson’s of Piccadilly accounts, are still embedded in my heart with fondness and appreciation of learning at the master’s feet.

    And you might be right about the rivalry too

    Where were you reading about Crawfords? The essay I linked to is a bit academic (in the sense that anything interesting in the story is drowned in cultural studies jargon) so I would love to read more.

  • I was reading something by the same chap but wouldn’t spend on it if it I were you. It suffers from the same jargon.

    All we want is a bit of info and nice pictures.

    Lovely quote you found though.

  • I ought to email him and see if he wants to remember more about his Crawfords days. I have ordered a history of British Advertising from the library, and will report back when I have had a look at it. Although the book backlog is going to need its own room soon.

  • I am very interested In Ashley, Who happened to be the son of the brother of my husband’s (Peter Reginald Havinden) grandfather Arthur George. AG showed me a drawing of ball without a single curve in it that Ashley had done. Ashley died at the age of 70 in 1973. Wish I could have met him!
    Peter recently died at the age of 91.
    ( Peter’ father was Reginald Arthur, mother Ivy Christine nee Pitt)

  • Thank you so much for getting in touch – I’m afraid that I don’t know much more than is on that page. But if you discover anything else, I would love to hear about it.

  • The more I read of him, the more I love the ‘sound’ of him. Peter had long legs, but his frame was light. I do know that Grandpa Havinden was very proud of him! Ruth Havinden (nee Kirkman)

  • There are a couple of designers that I would really have like to have met, and Ashley Havinden is definitely one of them.

  • Peter Reginal Havinden, Grandson died on November 12th 2012. I still miss him. I met Grandpa A G Havinden and Grandpa Pitt, they were both very charming.
    Ruth Havinden

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