Winter 2009

The ranged left years

Typography Papers 8: Modern typography in Britain

(Hyphen Press £25)

As we leave the certainties of the last few decades behind (stable social and economic structures, the dominance of the printed word) Typography Papers 8: Modern typography in Britain (Hyphen Press £25) arrives with a powerful collection of essays that centre on an earlier period of profound change: the postwar years. ‘The shift,’ as Paul Stiff says in his introduction, ‘from “commercial art” – picture making for business – to the work of modern typography and new “graphic design”.’

Stiff provides an enticing overview of the immediate postwar period, putting its designers firmly in a social and political context, contrasting the generation of the new traditionalists (Stanley Morison, Oliver Simon and Francis Meynell) with the arrival of the modernisers (Herbert Spencer, Ken Garland and Anthony Froshaug) who didn’t regard the private press book as the highest form of typography.

Émigrés brought European standards and intellectual drive. Stiff and Petra Cerne Oven investigate the work of pioneering information designer Ernest Hoch.

Sally Jeffery writes an account of the jobbing letterpress printer Desmond Jeffery. He used the latest sans serif fonts to set the work he printed, like his 1960 card for St George’s Gallery Prints. Jeffery took the view that politics and work were indivisible and this led to commissions for radical organisations, including this 1959 campaign to get British troops out of Cyprus. It was a time when graphic designers were politically involved.

In his essay, Robin Fior recalls working for the campaign against nuclear weapons, including producing a poster for the Committee of 100 in 1961.

First published in Eye no. 74 vol. 19 2009


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.