Tuesday, 10:00am
8 July 2014

Poster engineer

Design: Abram Games

By Naomi Games and Brian Webb. Design: Webb & Webb<br>Antique Collectors’ Club, £12.50, $19.95

Naomi Games profiles the life and work of her father Abram Games in this recent book from the Antique Collectors’ Club

Flaubert once wrote that when one writes the biography of a friend or relative, one should do it as if taking revenge on that person’s behalf, writes John L. Walters

In this handy book for the dependable and collectable ‘Design’ series published by the Antique Collectors’ Club, Naomi Games comes across as a worthy avenger for the creative and cultural legacy of her father Abram Games (1914-96).

N. Games’s personable, readable text is full of insights and anecdotes that create a strong and humanised impression of A. Games and his time, and she puts the record straight on a few matters.

It’s also timely: a Games retrospective has just been announced. ‘Designing the 20th Century: Life and Work of Abram Games’, will take place at London’s Jewish Museum from 8 September 2014 – 4 January 2015. Games’s centenary was also recently celebrated on a British postage stamp – a first for a graphic designer.

Poster for a United Kingdom Board of Trade exhibition in Moscow, 1959 (left) and a poster for ‘Modern Product Design’, an exhibition in Germany, 1964 (right).
Top: cover of Abram Games by Naomi Games and Brian Webb features A. Games’s emblem for the Festival of Britain. Designed by Brian Webb (Webb & Webb Design Ltd.)


Abram Games’s symbol for the 1951 Festival of Britain on the cover of the official Festival Guide (left) and three proposed designs for postage stamps (right) for the Olympic games in 1948, the Festival of Britain in 1951 and the Coronation in 1953. The 1953 Coronation postage stamp design was rejected.


Following the usual editorial structure that designers Webb and Webb established for the ‘Design’ series (which has included books about David Gentleman, F. H. K. Henrion and Peter Blake), the work dominates the second half, while the essay by N. Games, co-author with designer Brian Webb, takes up the opening 24 pages.

There have been bigger books about A. Games, notably the 2003 biography Abram Games: Graphic Designer, Maximum Meaning, Minimum Means by Catherine Moriarty, Naomi Games and June Rose. There have been shorter ones, too, such as N. Games’s little book for the Penguin Collectors’ Society (see ‘Books received #2’ on the Eye blog).

Postage stamp design to commemorate the death of Winston Churchill, 1965. The image is based on Yousuf Karsh’s 1941 photograph in the form of a ‘V for Victory’. The design was rejected in favour of an image by David Gentleman (see Eye 78) that used the same photo.


Abram Games, Guerre a la Faim (Freedom from Hunger), 1960, for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. The brief advised Games ‘to be a philosopher as well as an artist’.


This title covers Games’s most prominent work, from wartime posters such as ‘Talk kills’ via his 1951 Festival of Britain identity through to his evocative ‘Freedom from Hunger’ poster for the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) of the UN.

The early work from the 1930s reflects A. Games’s skill with the airbrush – he was given one for his fourteenth birthday. Yet he never regarded himself as an illustrator. N. Games explains that her father ‘regarded the poster more as an efficient machine than a picture, and the designer as more of an engineer than a painter.’

Posters (left) and Christmas cards (right) for the Financial Times, 1951-55, depicting the ‘manewspaper’ character.


John L. Walters, Eye editor, London

Designing the 20th Century: Life and Work of Abram Games’, will take place at London’s Jewish Museum from 8 September 2014 – 8 January 2015.

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.