I keep saying that what we know about graphic design is very much a partial history. But it’s a fact that’s worth repeating, because I’m increasingly discovering just how little knowledge we, or I at least, do have. Take Daphne Padden, for example.
To go by what can be found in archives and auctions, the extent of her work would seem to be designing posters for coach companies and menus for P&O, along with a few odds and ends for British Railways and the GPO.
But, as I mentioned the other day, we’ve now got some of her artwork and other odds and ends from her estate, and it’s a very revealing collection indeed. There are of course sketches for posters in there.
What’s different about this collection, though, is how much it reveals about her other work, in particular packaging design and corporate image. These are just a few pages from a small portfolio that she must have put together to show the range of her work.
But that’s not the half of it. I knew, because we’d bought the placard below last year, that she’d done some design work for Marks and Spencer.
But at some stage, it seems she did really quite a lot of their packaging. She kept both designs and the end product, and these cover everything from yoghurt posts to the wrappers for tights, along with much much more.
Judging from the pricing (and the inflation rate between design and finished packet) these are probably from the early to mid 1970s. But Marks & Spencers weren’t the only company she designed packaging for, either.
Had this carrier bag disappeared, as it easily might have done, Daphne Padden would just be a poster artist, no more. I’m very glad to have these, and to see how much she did really do, but it also makes me wonder about all the other bags of stuff which did get thrown away when other designers moved house or moved on. It’s heart-breaking to think about it but it’s also necessary: we must always remember just what a small and unrepresentative proportion of graphic design history does get kept, and that we will never fully comprehend the true extent of what we do not and will never know.