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

Over-modern and over here

An interesting comment appeared a week or so ago on a older post about Beverley Pick.

He was a man.  Bless him… He was my uncle and a very clever man..He also did the original Moby Dick… Beverley was originally from Austria and lived many years in Sunningdale during the winter. Autumn he would visit his House in Cork and in his latter years he and his wife would live in France where they had a gorgeous home. He is now buried in the Churchyard at Sunningdale. There was so much to this man we will never know it all…

I’ve written to Odile Walker, who posted those intriguing memories, and I hope she’ll come back and tell us more.  But in the meantime, one thing that I never knew stands out.  Despite his British-sounding name, Beverley Pick was an emigré from Austria.

Beverley Pick pig waste vintage WW2 propaganda poster
Beverley Pick, WW2 poster

Now, I’ve been thinking for a while about the degree to which post-war British graphic design was shaped by people who were one way or another foreigners. There are so many of them that it would be hard not to really.  But finding that this is also true for Beverley Pick has pushed me into action.

So here is a roll call of as many emigré designers as I can think of who worked in the UK in the decade or so after the war.  It’s an impressive selection. With, for no particular reason other than that’s the way it turned out, lots of GPO posters as examples.

Andre Amstutz

Whitley bay poster Andre Amstutz vintage british railway poster
British Railways, 1954

Dorrit Dekk

Dorrit Dekk vintage GPO wireless licence poster 1949
GPO, 1949

Arpad Elfer

Arpad Elfer design for DH Evans poster 1954
D H Evans, 1954

Abram Games

Abram Games vintage London Transport poster at your service 1947

F H K Henrion

Henrion Artists and Russia Exhibition 1942

H A Rothholz

H A Rothholz stamps in books poster vintage GPO 1955
GPO, 1955

Pieter Huveneers

Pieter Huveneers fleetwood poster 1950 vintage railway poster
British Railways, 1950


Karo vintage GPO soft fruits by post poster 1952

Heinz Kurth

Heinz Kurth design for Artist Partners brochure divider
Artist Partners


Lewitt Him Pan American vintage travel Poster

Manfred Reiss

Manfred Reiss vintage GPO poster 1950
GPO, 1950

Hans Schleger

Hans Schleger vintage GPO ww2 poster posting before lunch
GPO, 1941

Hans Unger

Hans Unger 1951 vintage GPO poster
GPO, 1951

Together they make up pretty much half the content of this blog most months.  And I am sure that there are plenty more I have left out – please feel free to remind me who they are.

That’s all I am going to say for now, partly because this is quite long enough as it is, but also because I am in the process of working out what the story might be.  So if you have any thoughts on why British design became such an emigré profession, I’d love to hear those too.