GPO Posters have played a significant role in establishing a dynamic relationship between the public service and its customers. For instance, they reminded people to use the postal service more efficiently and ‘Post Early’. Thanks to open-minded PR Officers like Stephen Tallents, GPO Posters also became a mirror of British graphic design particularly from the 1930s onwards. The GPO’s public relations department – the first government ministry PR department ever – saw the educational potential of poster design and combined it with a high standard of modern art. The Post Office offered employment to many artists and graphic designers; many of them helped shape the world of design and art during their careers. These included Tom Eckersley, Frank Newbould. and George Him and Jan Le Witt, better known as the Lewitt-Him partnership.
One example of how those campaigns were linked to creative design and the distribution of business information can be illustrated in the numerous posters advertising Post Office directories. This ranged from directories of the businesses and services available in cities throughout Britain to publications such as the ‘Post Office Guide’, ‘Post Offices in the United Kingdom’, ‘London Post Offices and Streets’, and ‘Postal Addresses’. They provided valuable resources for marketing and sales departments and were updated every year. The works of artists like Lewitt-Him, Alick Knight or M H Armengol illustrate how these campaigns succeeded in presenting a functional product with iconic images and ingenious designs.
Probably one of the most prominent posters is Lewitt-Him’s ‘A Postal Guide of the Maze of London’ (1951) which depicts a postman about to enter a stylistic maze of houses. The publication provides details of Post Offices, their streets and district numbers, hours of business and a listing of street names – a perfect aid for the postman’s journey into the intricate maze of streets. The partnership of the two Polish-born artists Jan Le Witt (1907-1991) and George Him (1900-1981) was a very successful collaboration in graphic design and they created several posters for the Ministry of Information during the Second World War and murals for the Festival of Britain (1951).
Other poster artists may have remained relatively obscure but their creativity had resulted in some fine GPO poster art. Alick Knight, for example, contributed to several Post Office campaigns, including for the Post Office Guide during the 1950s. Several of his posters feature drawings of iconic buildings like the one for the ‘London Post Offices and Streets’ (1958). Although these posters advertising the London Post Office Guides were designed to have an immediate impact and relate to a particular product, their designs give them a surprising agelessness and relevance to anyone living in or coming to London.
The BPMA have produced a new set of postcards featuring the London-themed posters in this blog. It is now available in the BPMA Shop and further Post Office Guide posters can also be found on our print-on-demand website.
– Jana Harnett, Marketing & Development Assistant