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.
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.
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.
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
(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.
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.