Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Look Behind Icons

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Look Behind Icons

Article excerpt

Byline: By David Whetstone

In the world of graphic design, Abram Games was a pioneer, arguably even a genius. But in the wider world it was his work that made an impact.

Even if people didn't know the name of the person who designed the iconic Guinness poster, they certainly knew the poster itself.

It was so simple, so effective, as was all of Games's work. It is anybody's guess how many millions of bottles of the dark brew it must have shifted, but it certainly would have floated a battleship.

An exhibition at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens is the spur to considering the life and work of a man who provided the 20th Century with some of its most easily recognisable images. He designed advertisements for high-profile companies, including Guinness and London Transport, commemorative stamps for the 1948 Olympic Games and the symbol of the BBC. He even developed the Rex coffee machine for the Cona Coffee Company.

He was born Abraham Gamse in 1914 to a pair of immigrants, Moshe, a photographer from Latvia, and Sarah, a seamstress from Russo-Poland. But he Anglicised and shortened his name to Abram Games because, according to daughter Naomi, it made it easier to pronounce.

Games became an art school dropout but continued his education at evening classes while working first in his father's studio and then for a firm of commercial artists as a general dogsbody. In 1936 he won a poster competition but was sacked for his "independent views".

Naomi Games, who attended the Sunderland opening with her brother Daniel, remembered her father fondly as "very creative, quite obsessive. He was always about simplicity; paring things down was his thing."

It was the war that was the making of him. Naomi explained that after he was called up into the Army as a private and was living in barracks, he realised there was a need for simple and effective information explaining matters of health and safety.

"He wrote a memorandum and submitted it anonymously to the War Office, suggesting they needed a special poster giving information. They agreed and he went on to produce about 100 posters. His output was unbelievable. …

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