The unknown known

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.

Daphne Padden take your children to the seaside poster

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.

Daphne Padden menu P&O

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.

Daphne Padden artwork for wales poster

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.

Daphne Padden portfolio cigarette packet design 1960s?

Daphne Padden portfolio coach poster design

Daphne Padden portfolio cigarette packets

Daphne Padden portfolio exhibition design

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.

Daphne Padden chef design 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.

Daphne Padden Marks and Spencers Washing Up Liquid design

Daphne Padden M&S angel sandwich design and finished

Daphne Padden Marks and Spencers Christmas cake design

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.

Daphne Padden Hathaways Jam design

Daphne Padden frozen strawberries packaging

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.

  • What an excellent article from the fast becoming ‘premier authority’ on La Padden. ..Can a book deal be far away? Keep up the good work. I feel the same about my own ‘unheralded star’, Martin Peikert, the Swiss designer of posters and depliants. Not a book or even article on the works of this great man can I find and yet his posters frequently make £10k plus at Christies…Russell J

  • This is fabulous, thanks for sharing the above. You’r right, it’s such a shame that evidence of work like this is disappearing on a daily basis. Inappropriate archiving and disposal of materials by corporations doesn’t help. I guess the “value” of this stuff isnt necessarily recognisable until many years later .
    I seem to remember the “sell by chef” being around for ages…. Im sure the angel sandwich tasted heavenly too.

  • As a huge saver of wrappers and shopping bags, I was blown away by the amazing packaging design work done by Daphne Padden. Her posters are terrific but I personally covet that Angel Sandwich Bread wrapper and maybe that Hathaway Jam one, too! Thanks for sharing.

  • And there’s loads more too – I need to photograph the 3D things and will try and do so soon!

  • And thank you very much for all of the other comments.

    It’s an interesting question about archiving, as I think M&S have just opened, or are about to open, a big company archive in Leeds. But whether they have records of design work and designers, and whether it would be possible to find out that they held Daphne Padden’s work unless you already knew something, I don’t know.

  • many years ago i bought a painting by daphne padden but its oil on canvas its a windmill is there any way of knowing if this was the same daphne padden?

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