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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Abram Games - London Transport Museum Event

Last night I was lucky to go along to a talk by Abram Games daughter - Naomi, on her father's life and his prolific work in graphic design. Even though I had seen lots of Games work around, I never knew he was the man behind the striking work such as the BBC's first animated logo, the Queen's Award emblem (he didn't like to call them logos), Penguin's first colour book covers from the 1950's and of course some amazing posters for the London Underground and London Transport.

I had no idea, that he produced one of the Victoria Line's mosaics - the beautiful swan at Stockwell Tube station below:


Games was trying to sell most of his works in the 1930's and he was continually told that it was "too modern", so hats off to London Transport who commissioned his first commercial poster - A Train every 90 seconds - and yes, he was well aware of the irony!

Poster Journeys: Abram Games and London Transport

His school report said that he was "Lazy, careless & untidy and drawing was weak", fortunately he saw this as a challenge rather than a put down. However, he never really got on with formal artistic training and only spent two terms at Central St Martins College before dropping out.

He owed a lot of his success to travelling on the top of double decker buses in London and said he should have paid rent to London Transport. From the top of buses he got a great sense for how posters were seen by a lot of travellers. Fleeting glances from strange angles, so the message had to get across quickly. His motto was "Maximum Meaning, Minimum Means", and he used limited colours & limted typography but to striking effect.

London Zoo, by  Abram Games, 1976 The City of London, by  Abram Games, 1964

He left his students at the Royal Academy of Art with three C's that they should apply to their work. Curiosity, Courage and Concentration. Sound advice for most work actually.

Naomi's book Poster Journeys: Abram Games and London Transport launched yesterday and contains all of Games work for London Transport with some fascinating sketches which led to all of the posters.

Thanks again to London Transport Museum for inviting me and also for having the courage to commission a difficult but brilliant artist who was seen by many as ahead of his time.

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