Abram Games



Abram Games (London, 1914—London, 1996), British graphic designer.

Born Abraham Gamse, he was the son of immigrants: a Latvianphotographer and a Russo-Polish seamstress. He anglicized his name to Games at age 12 and was essentially an autodidactic designer, having attended London’s St. Martins School of Art (today the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design) for only two terms. However, while working as a “studio boy” in commercial design firm Askew-Young in London 1932-36, he was attending night classes in life drawing. He was fired from this position due to his jumping over four chairs as a prank. 1934, his entry was second in the Health Council Competition and, 1935, won a poster competition for theLondon City Council. 1936-40, he was on his own as a freelance poster artist.


The style of his work — refined but vigorous compared to the work of contemporaries — has earned him a place in the pantheon of the best of 20th-century graphic designers. In acknowledging his power as a propagandist, he claimed, “I wind the spring and the public, in looking at the poster, will have that spring released in its mind.” Because of the length of his career — over six decades — his work is essentially a record of the era’s social history. Some of Britain’s most iconic images include those by Games. An example is the “Join the ATS” propaganda poster of 1941, nicknamed the “Blonde Bombshell” recruitment poster. From 1942, during World War II, Games’s service as the Official War Artist resulted in 100 or so posters.

1946, he resumed his freelance practice and worked for clients such Shell,Financial TimesGuinnessBritish AirwaysLondon TransportEl Al, and the United Nations. He designed stamps for BritainJersey, and Israel. Also, he designed the logo for JFS situated currently in north-west London. There were also book jackets for Penguin Books and logos for the 1951 Festival of Britain (winning the 1948 competition) and the 1965 Queen’s Award to Industry. Evidence of his pioneering contributions is the first (1953) moving on-screen symbol of BBC Television. 1946-53, Games was a visiting lecturer in graphic design at London’s Royal College of Art; 1958, was awarded theOrder of the British Empire (OBE) for services to graphic design; 1959, was appointed a Royal Designer for Industry (RDI). In the 1950s and of Jewishheritage, he was known to have spent some time in Israel where, among other activities, he designed stamps for the Israeli Post Office and taught a course in postage-stamp design.

Games was also an industrial designer of sorts. Activities in this discipline included the design of the 1947 Cona coffee percolator (produced from 1949, reworked in 1959 and still in production) and inventions such as a circularvacuum and the early 1960s portable handheld duplicating machine byGestetner. But the duplicator was not put into production due to the demise of mimeography.

In arriving at a poster design, Games would render up to 30 small preliminary sketches and then combine two or three into the final one. In the developmental process, he would work small because, he asserted, if poster designs “don’t work an inch high, they will never work.” He would also call on a large number of photographic images as source material. Purportedly, if a client rejected a proposed design (which seldom occurred), Games would resign and suggest that the client commission someone else.



~ by sketchbitch on January 8, 2009.

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