Poster of the Week: London Transport at London’s Service

LondonTransportAbram Games1947
London Transport at London’s Service, Abram Games, 1947

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As a Londoner who never learnt to drive designer Abram Games travelled everywhere by public transport, sketching poster ideas on every journey.

“I should have paid London Transport rent. I never get disturbed on buses or tube trains; there are no visitors or telephones, but sometimes I’m so busy concentrating that I overshoot my stop.”

Inspired by the posters of Edward McKnight Kauffer, Austin Cooper and Tom Purvis, Games knew that a poster must be noticed quickly and be legible from a distance, formulating his axiom ‘maximum meaning, minimum means’.

Abram Games was 23 in 1937 when Frank Pick, the Chief Executive of the London Passenger Transport Board and Christian Barman, London Transport’s Publicity Officer, commissioned him to produce the poster ‘A train every 90 seconds’. One year later, Games wrote to Barman asking if there might be a possibility of designing more posters, but the Second World War intervened. As Official War Poster Artist, Captain Abram Games designed 100 posters for the army, with Frank Pick’s comment, ‘a good poster explains itself’ uppermost in his thoughts.

After the war Publicity Officer Harold Hutchinson commissioned two ‘London Transport at London’s Service’ posters from Games, who was now working freelance. Britain was still suffering from the effects of war and London Transport considered it essential to convey to passengers that their staff, trains and service were efficient. Hutchinson introduced the ‘pair poster’ to allow artists the freedom to create exciting imagery without concern for the textual information.

Framed London Transport at London’s Service posters at Trinity Road (now Tooting Bec) Underground station. © Transport for London

In July 1947, Games wrote to Hutchinson:

“I would like to say how very much I appreciate the way in which you have allowed the designer free scope, and guided the work. They were very interesting designs to work on I look forward to seeing the whole series in action. If you could let me know when the time comes to discuss the typography and printing I shall gladly come along.”

Games liked to oversee the final print, often taking colour swatches to the printer. It is not known if Hutchinson allowed a visit to the Baynard Press, being aware that the designer had high standards and might hinder the lithographic printing process.

The ‘Zoo’ poster, published in 1975, would be the last of 18 posters and four typographical ‘pair posters’ Abram Games designed for London Transport.

Written by Naomi Games

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