The death of octogenarian Abram Games is a great loss to design, despite his fantastic innings. Frail but sharp, he was a designer to the end and the body of work he created over 60 years has inspired generations. Such was the strength of his designs.
While mourning his passing, it’s worth reflecting on what made Games so great and picking up pointers for design’s future. He spent his life proving the power design can wield in getting a message across. His wartime posters, for example, were brutally simple, leaving soldiers and civilians in no doubt that careless talk can kill. This was not prettied-up propaganda: the posters often upset people in the highest places, including even Winston Churchill. Rarely has design had such influence.
Games’ great art was to take the message and strip it down to its essence. But then he put spin on it, employing what the obituary writers describe as “a wry sense of humour” to create imagery that was memorable and real. Even the highly stylised ATS “glamour girl” recruitment poster of 1941 for the women’s army, withdrawn following parliamentary pressure, and the 1951 Festival of Britain logo, struck a chord you can hear even now – and one Lord Saatchi and his chums would do well to listen to before their next Tory Party advertising campaign.
And though Games will be best remembered for his campaigning posters, he wasn’t restricted to graphics. He was equally keen on invention and designed an array of products, working as ever on his own.
In Games we had a man of ideas, passion and tireless work. He was also a man of courage and honesty, with a fearless belief in telling it how it is. We see similar traits now in comedy theatre, but would that they underpinned more contemporary design, to the benefit of clients and delight of the punters.
We will miss Games, but we can honour him best by joining the path he helped to lay. And, if anyone has cash to spare, how about a student bursary to perpetuate his name and keep his spirit alive?