Give that penguin a fish!

A recent acquisition on eBay was a few copies of Modern Publicity from the late 1950s and early 1960s.  I was going to share their delights with you anyway, but when I looked into the archives I realised that I’ve never actually blogged about this properly at all. Then when I looked a bit harder I discovered that Designers in Britain has only ever been mentioned in passing as well.  As both are rather fabulous resources, I will endeavour to put at least some of this to rights over the next few weeks. But first, a brief introduction.

Modern Publicity is an international annual, published by The Studio group, which covers what would now be called graphic design – posters, printed material, packaging and trade marks – from around the world.  In contrast, Designers in Britain does what it says on the tin and only deals with UK design and designers, but includes everything from letterheads to large pieces of industrial machinery.  While both of them suffer from being predominantly printed in black and white, they are nonetheless well worth your attention.  Not only do you get to look at lots of wonderful pieces all in one place, but they’re also fascinating insights into what critics and designers thought was good at the time it was produced.  Which isn’t always the same as the things we like now.

So, what did people admire in the late 1950s and early 1960s?  Or to be more precise, which pieces of graphic design were considered good enough to stand next to the cream of international design?  One answer is not the designers that you might expect.  Tom Eckersley gets just one poster included in the two Modern Publicity annuals from the 1950s.

Eckersley Aer Lingus vintage European route poster

You’ll be relieved to hear that he does rather better in 1962, with three designs included, amongst them this Omo poster which I’ve never seen before.

Tom Eckersley Omo poster 1962 Modern Publicity

Abram Games also receives a rave review in 1958 for this Guinness poster, which is chosen to open the entire book.

Abram Games Guinness poster 1957 big G

Only where both name and product are already household words is such a method possible.  To adopt the plan for an unknown advertiser would be to court disaster.

After that, it all gets a bit more unexpected.  I’ve mentioned before that Harry Stevens is very popular in these kinds of publications, and that’s as true in these annuals as it ever was.

harry Stevens tilling group luggage poster 1958

harry Stevens victoria coach station poster 1957 from Modern Publicity

Printed in lemon, vermilion, cobalt, orange, pink and black, the caption says.  I don’t think black and white is really fair on it, do you?  And should you have a copy in colour, please do let me know, I’d love to see it.

An even more surprising regular is Ken Bromfield.  Now he comes up every now and then on here, mostly as a designer of quite nice railway posters.  But the editors of Modern Publicity love his work – he gets four pieces of work in the 1959 edition alone, including this poster.

ken bromfield artwork for windsor poster 1960 it says on NMSI

This is the artwork from the NMSI collection, because I can’t find the actual poster anywhere.  But he’s clearly an artist I should take a proper look at one of these days.

There are also a few unexpected gems to be discovered, like this poster by Lander.

R M Lander Folkstone poster 1958 in black and white sadly

I can’t find a decent picture of this anywhere, which is really frustrating as it looks great, and must look even better in colour, (and I am getting quite close to having another rant about the inadequacies of the National Railway Museum catalogue as a result of my looking too).  Again, any pointers gratefully received.  Or indeed copies of the poster.

There are others of this ilk as well – it’s always worth being reminded of this London Transport poster by Edwin Tatum.

Vintage London Transport Poster natural history museum Tatum 1956

I’m also happy to see anything at all by Arpad Elfer, although these penguins are particularly splendid.

Arpad Elfer penguins DH evans poster 1958

There’s plenty more where that came from.  Here, just as an example, are Karo and Zero together on one page (did you see what they did there?).

Karo WH Smith ad and Zero Macfisheries ad from Modern Publicity

What a world it must have been with those advertisements in it.

Then there are the people I’ve just never heard of before.  Who, for example was Petronella Hodges?  She did this.

Petronella Hodges G Plan booklet 1958

And this too.

Petronella Hodges cutlery leaflet J Walter Thompson 1958

But she appears precisely nowhere in Google.  A mystery, it seems.  But the clue lies in the small print.  Both of these designs were produced by J Walter Thompson, so my guess would be that Petronella Hodges was an art director there at the end of the 1950s.  Quite apart from conjuring up images of a British version of Mad Men, it’s also a pointer to a very specific change that was going on.  The jobbing freelance designer would become an increasingly rare species, with only the very best surviving.  More and more, this kind of design would be done in house at the agencies, by this new breed of Art Director.

In amongst all of this, I realise that I’ve hardly even mentioned the 1962 edition, and there’s lots going on in there, as even the British make the move from whimsy to modernism.  So that will have to get a post to itself another day.  In the meantime, have a couple more rare gems from the late 50s, by Abram Games and E Tatum, again.  There’s someone else I’m going to need to find out more about, isn’t it…

Abram Games green rover ticket poster 1958

E Tatum train to the continent poster 1958

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11 Comments

  1. Posted May 2, 2012 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    And while I am on the subject of Lander – that looks like a bit of design recycling going on in the Bromfield Windsor poster. If that little ghostly vignette of Windsor Castle isn’t his work, I will eat my collection of very fine hats!

  2. crownfolio
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    I know what you mean; it’s a fine line between inspiration and recycling… I wonder which poster came first?

  3. Bob Smith
    Posted September 23, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been reading your blog for months now; and remembered this entry when I was sorting out some posters to sell on eBay.
    One of which is the Bromfield of Windsor you mentioned above. It is rather an imposing Dragon, and up for sale as I speak!
    As for the Lander in the background, I feel he might have at least been aware, as he was producing art posters for British Railways Southern at the same time – e.g. Canterbury in the same series.

  4. crownfolio
    Posted September 23, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    I shall go and look out for your listing, as I’d love to see the actual poster. Perhaps you can sell it to the NRM?

  5. Bob Smith
    Posted September 28, 2012 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    That’s an idea! No idea how I might go about it though…..

    It’s a shame eBay pictures are a bit small as standard, if you want larger versions of any I’ve listed just let me know – no idea if any might be of use/interest to you?

    On a different subject, might I suggest the addition to your “Books” tab of the “Poster to Poster: Railway Journeys in Art” series by Richard Furness. They really are excellent, covering lots of Railway posters which have never appeared in books before.

  6. crownfolio
    Posted October 1, 2012 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    Oh, I’d just ring them up and ask – can’t hurt, can it?

    And yes, I do need to update that books listing; there are plenty of other books which have had a mention in despatches but not got added on to there too.

  7. Carsten Nielsen
    Posted January 10, 2013 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    Hi Crown.
    I have some editions of Modern publicity in hard copy, from 1927-1937
    Would you have any interest in them?

    You can wrigth to my mail for pictures of the books.

    Greatings from Carsten Nielsen in Denmark

  8. Posted June 12, 2014 at 1:01 am | Permalink

    I’m very interested in a large file of the G-Plan Hifi image, is it a brochure? Can you please point me in the direction?
    Many thanks

    Marc

  9. crownfolio
    Posted June 12, 2014 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    Hello,

    Sadly the only image I have is that scan from the rather small black and white picture in Modern Publicity. However, it might be worth getting in contact with this lot as they may be able to help.

    http://hwfurniturearchive.bucks.ac.uk/asset-bank/action/viewHome

  10. Maurizio Aurino
    Posted October 19, 2014 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    I’d love a copy of the Poster by Arpad Elfer, DH EVANS poster with 2 penguins. Does anyone knows if it is possible to get or buy one?
    Regards
    Maurizio

  11. crownfolio
    Posted October 20, 2014 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    I’d rather like one too. These come up very, very rarely at auction though and I don’t think I’ve ever seen the penguin one in real life. Perhaps we need to badger DH Evans and get them to use their archive?

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