One day, I am going to move into the Brighton University Design Archives for a month or two, which I think should be long enough to explore.
There is a ridiculous amount there (both the Henrion and Design Council archives alone can be measured in metres), so it’s forgiveable that the holdings aren’t all digitised and web catalogued for me to survey from the comfort of my desk.
Imagine my delight then when I came across these.
Well in fact it was Mr Crownfolio who came across the cache first, as a result of doing some detective work on those RoSPA posters I mentioned the other day. Because that’s a 1950 GPO poster by HA Rothholz, and it’s just one of a whole heap.
For some reason, out there on the Archives Hub are dozens of his posters, all from his own archives which are held in Brighton. I don’t know why he’s been singled out, but I do know it’s a jolly good thing. Take a look at this Post Office Savings Bank poster to start with.
Or this wonderful wartime RosPA poster.
It’s not, I’ll be honest with you, a complete treasure trove of undiscovered work. The RoSPA posters and the GPO work, to start with, are fairly well archived as it is. Although I had never seen this particular GPO poster until now.
To be fair, it is in the BPMA’s catalogue when you go looking for it, they just don’t shout about it. Ah, 1956, not entirely a paradise of good design and right thinking then.
There are also a few things, like this coach poster, that I would have had no idea about otherwise.
What’s most enlightening about this archive, though, is that seeing it altogether gives a proper overview of Rothholz’s career. The outline story is quite simple.
Rothholz came to London in 1933 to study at the Reimann School (principal one Austin Cooper and an institution that I would love to read more about if anyone can point me at a source). Despite being interned as an enemy alien during the war in both the Isle of Man and Canada, he returned to Britain in 1942 and became one of the main designers of RoSPA’s safety posters. Others are better known, but this is one of my favourites.
In the decade or so after the war he produced a flurry of posters, continuing to work for RoSPA, but also for the GPO.
Along with, to a lesser extent, London Transport.
Apart from the GPO work, the flood of posters seems to dry up by the mid 1950s. The biographies give us a clue:
He also designed graphics and a mural for the ‘Lyons Corner House’ restaurant, at Marble Arch, and contributed to the corporate identity styles of Winsor & Newton and The Wellcome Foundation.
He must have done quite well too, because he employed people (look at the comments here for some personal testimonies). Here’s a piece of his Winsor and Newton design from the archive.
This is a story we have come across before. As television takes over, and advertising agencies start to design campaigns rather than posters, another designer moves over to the fields of brand identity and corporate style.
While it may be nothing new, it’s still fascinating to see it played out across an entire archive from the comfort of my own desk. And if anyone can fill in any of the gaps, please do get in contact.