Tag Archives: poster design

Christmas airmail

In the lead-up to Christmas we are sharing with you 12 Posters of Christmas, a dozen classic postal posters from the Royal Mail Archive. Today’s is…

Poster advertising Christmas air mail services; featuring a flying Father Christmas with wings made out of Air Mail stickers, designed by Dick Negus and Philip Sharland, 1962. (POST 110/4254)

Poster advertising Christmas air mail services; featuring a flying Father Christmas with wings made out of Air Mail stickers, designed by Dick Negus and Philip Sharland, 1962. (POST 110/4254)

This poster from 1962 gives the last posting dates for Christmas mail sent by airmail in that year. Airmail is usually associated with international mail services but after the Second World War the Post Office began to use scheduled inland flights to carry mail between major centres.

Since 1979 Royal Mail has developed an inland network of nightly flights between provincial centres. Its national air network, Skynet, ensures millions of letters reach their destination the day after posting. Thanks to Skynet some of your Christmas cards and parcels will have gone by air for part of their journey without the need for an airmail sticker.

If Skynet sounds a bit Terminator and not as fun as this Father Christmas with angel wings of airmail stickers, we can only apologise.

Seasons greetings by radio

In the lead-up to Christmas we are sharing with you 12 Posters of Christmas, a dozen classic postal posters from the Royal Mail Archive. Today’s is…

Poster advertising radio telegram service; featuring a ship and the radio mast, November 1960. (POST 110/1406)

Poster advertising radio telegram service; featuring a ship and the radio mast, November 1960. (POST 110/1406)

Wireless or radio telegraphy was pioneered by Guglielmo Marconi and General Post Office (GPO) at the end of the 19th Century; we have previously blogged on its important role in saving lives after the Titanic disaster. While Marconi’s invention was originally implemented to transmit messages where a wired telegraph network did not exist (i.e. to ships at sea), radio was, of course, later used to broadcast information and entertainment (we have also previously blogged on the GPO’s involvement with the BBC and early broadcasting).

The above poster from 1960 advertises the GPO’s radio telegram service, where telegrams were sent overseas via a relay of on-shore transmitting stations and ships. International telephone calls were still prohibitively expensive in this period and telegrams were the most affordable option for anyone needing to send a quick message over long distances. This poster, which would have been a common site at local post offices, uses simple, stylish graphics to encourage the public to use this service at Christmas.

Post Early at Christmas

In the lead-up to Christmas we are sharing with you 12 Posters of Christmas, a dozen classic postal posters from the Royal Mail Archive. Today’s is…

Poster advertising final posting dates for the festive period; featuring a Christmas tree and a candle, designed by Hans Arnold Rothholz, 1951. (POST 110/1276)

Poster advertising final posting dates for the festive period; featuring a Christmas tree and a candle, designed by Hans Arnold Rothholz, 1951. (POST 110/1276)

From the 1930s until the 1960s the Post Office ran its annual “Post early” campaign, encouraging people to send their letters and parcels as early as possible to avoid a rush in the week leading up to Christmas. We have previously blogged about this campaign and how it became a victim of its own success. A Post Office Regional Director’s Conference paper of 1966 (RD (66) 2, POST 73/122) concluded that the campaign had proved to be “somewhat of an embarrassment since it produces a large volume of traffic before we are ready for it”.

The above poster from 1951 shows the last posting dates as 19 and 20 December, Royal Mail’s recommending posting dates for 2012 can be found on their website. If you are sending a Christmas card or parcel to Canada, Eastern Europe or the United States today is the last day – do not delay!

You can purchase a selection of “Post early” Christmas greeting cards from our online shop. For delivery within the UK please place your order by 18 December.

Temporary Christmas Staff

In the lead-up to Christmas we are sharing with you 12 Posters of Christmas, a dozen classic postal posters from the Royal Mail Archive. Today’s is…

Christmas temporary staff wanted, General Post Office recruitment poster, 1946. (PRD 0450)

Christmas temporary staff wanted, General Post Office recruitment poster, 1946. (PRD 0450)

It may not be the most exciting poster in the Royal Mail Archive, but this poster from 1946 is one of many that have been produced over the years to help Royal Mail and the Post Office recruit extra staff for Christmas. This year Royal Mail Group has hired around 18,000 extra staff to sort more than 130 million extra items per day, including Christmas cards and parcels.

Today’s Christmas recruitment is organised through websites and agencies, but in the 1940s it would have been common to see posters such as this in local post offices and employment exchanges. The blue lettering may seem dull to modern eyes, but this poster was produced in 1946 and colourful printing inks were in short supply during and after the war – you may have noticed that the colours in the 1944 Christmas Airgraphs poster we blogged yesterday were equally muted. Next Monday’s poster, produced in 1951, will be a more colourful offering, however…

Christmas Airgraphs

In the lead-up to Christmas we are sharing with you 12 Posters of Christmas, a dozen classic postal posters from the Royal Mail Archive. Today’s is…

Send him Greetings on a Christmas Airgraph form, 1944 poster by Leonard Beaumont. (PRD0392)

Send him Greetings on a Christmas Airgraph form, 1944 poster by Leonard Beaumont. (PRD0392)

This poster designed by Leonard Beaumont in 1944 promotes the airgraph service, a method of sending messages to servicemen by airmail during the Second World War. Messages were written onto a special form that was then given an identification number and photographed onto microfilm. The microfilm was flown to its destination, developed into a full size print, and posted to the recipient.

Airgraph form, Christmas 1943 (POST 52/692)

Airgraph form, Christmas 1943 (POST 52/692)

Sending 1600 airgraphs on microfilm weighed just 5oz compared to 50lbs for the same number of letters. Copies of the microfilm were kept so that if they were shot down the messages could be re-sent.

Christmas time is often the most difficult for serving military personnel and airgraphs were eagerly anticipated by troops. Today, the British Forces Post Office (BFPO) uses an electronic system called eBlueys – read more about it in this blog about our visit to the BFPO in 2009.

Visit our website for more on the Airgraph Service – did you know that Queen Elizabeth (later The Queen Mother) sent the first airgraph?

Queen Elizabeth taking a look at an airgraph film. The Queen sent the first airgraph to launch the service in 1941.

Queen Elizabeth taking a look at an airgraph film. The Queen sent the first airgraph to launch the service in 1941.

Ringing the Change: Post Office promotion of the telephone and telegraph service, 1925-1939

On Thursday 8 November the BPMA are delighted to host our guest speaker, David Hay, Head of Heritage at BT Group PLC. David Hay will be exploring the radical change in Post Office telephone marketing strategy in the 1930s in a talk entitled Ringing the Change.

"Telephone rates" publicity leaflet, c. 1930 (BT Archives, TCB 318/PH 9)

“Telephone rates” publicity leaflet, c. 1930 (BT Archives, TCB 318/PH 9)

Between 1925 and 1928 the Post Office invested almost £1 million a month in the telephone network as it began the roll-out of automatic telephone exchanges, enabling subscribers to make local calls directly without involving a telephone operator. The result of this new technology, together with the introduction of new mass-produced telephone instruments using early plastics, was that the cost of having a telephone gradually began to fall. The Post Office also introduced new services during this period, such as the first transatlantic radio telephone service in 1926, direct telephone communications with countries in Europe and the expansion of the public telephone kiosk network.

Cover of Automatic Exchange leaflet (BT Archives, TCB 318/PH 637).

Cover of Automatic Exchange leaflet (BT Archives, TCB 318/PH 637).

However, much of this innovation went unnoticed by the public. Indeed, despite the enormous investment in new technology, there was widespread concern by 1931 that Britain was lagging behind other countries in Europe in the take-up of the telephone. Up to 25 per cent of the capacity of the telephone network was lying idle.

"Always at your service", telephone service publicity poster designed by Austin Cooper, 1934 (BT Archives, TCB 319/PRD 76).

“Always at your service”, telephone service publicity poster designed by Austin Cooper, 1934 (BT Archives, TCB 319/PRD 76).

This richly illustrated talk will explore the early attempts of the Post Office to address this and to market the telephone to a wider part of society then before, efforts which were revolutionised in 1933 by the recruitment of Sir Stephen Tallents as the Post Office’s first Public Relations Officer. The decade before the Second World War was in many ways a golden period for GPO marketing, not least in the publicity machine unleashed by Tallents who had a passionate belief in the role of the arts promoting what were then Government services. Tallents and his team commissioned artists, designers, film makers and photographers to project a modern view of the Post Office to its customers and to its own employees.

"Come on the telephone", telephones publicity leaflet, c1933 (BT Archives, TCB 318/PH 3)

“Come on the telephone”, telephones publicity leaflet, c1933 (BT Archives, TCB 318/PH 3)

The result was that by the end of the inter-war era many of the GPO’s products and services – such as the Jubilee red telephone kiosk designed by Giles Gilbert Scott, the Speaking Clock and the 999 Emergency Service – had become iconic parts of the nation’s cultural fabric, and remain so to this day. And the Post Office itself, which entered the decade criticised on all sides for failing to promote its telecommunications services and communicate its role generally, was ultimately respected as a national asset vital to the country’s success.

We hope you will join us for what promises to be a fascinating talk!

Tickets are £3 per head or £2.50 for concessions, and can be bought on the door on the night or you can book tickets online.

An interview with Pieter Huveneers

Netherland born Pieter Huveneers is a designer popular amongst GPO poster enthusiasts for, amongst other things, his designs for airmail and telephones. In Europe he designed for a number of large companies including BOAC, British Railways, Schweppes, ICI, Pepsi Cola and Philips.

For some decades he has lived and worked in Australia. Before his retirement Mr Huveneers designed nearly 70 names and logos for Australian corporations and employed a dozen staff. His Australian work included logos for Australia Post, Telecom Australia, and the Westpac bank.

Now 87 and retired, he continues to make paintings, including some innovative silver metal designs, and wonderful portraits.

We are indebted to Pieter’s partner Tanis for her assistance with this interview.

How did you become a poster artist/graphic designer?

I completed a design course at the Academy in Arnhem, Holland, during and after the war. I chose this particular course because of its wide application. You can make a design, it can be repeated in multiple applications and provide to the designer exposure to the public.

How and why did you begin designing for the Post Office? What other companies (whether commercial companies or advertising agencies) were you working for at the time?

Road Safety, BOAC, British Railways, Schweppes, Mullard, British Titan, General Electric Company, ICI, British Aluminium Company, Babcock, Pepsi Cola.

When designing a poster, did you have a clear idea of the image you wanted to create?

The image you want to create should be in line with the service offered.

Did the Post Office give you much freedom in your designs?

Yes.

How many drafts would you make before the final poster was produced?

You don’t make drafts so much – I made doodles.

You were very young when you were commissioned by the Post Office. Did you feel under a lot of pressure?

No.

What is your favourite design you produced for the Post Office?

The Post Office Guide.

The 'Post Office Guide' supplies all the answers, designed by Pieter Huveneers, July 1955 (POST 110/3226, PRD 0786)

The 'Post Office Guide' supplies all the answers, designed by Pieter Huveneers, July 1955 (POST 110/3226, PRD 0786)

You produced designs for various Post Office campaigns, including ‘Post Early’, ‘Buy stamps in books’, the ‘Post Office Guide’, and ‘Speak clearly’. Did you have a favourite campaign?

No.

What prompted your move to Australia in the 1960s?

I worked at Philips Head Office in Eindhoven as International Creative Director in the mid 1960s. I had made many designs. It was really an opportunity to go to a country with new horizons.

Did you find freedom and opportunity for creativity in British graphic design declined in the 1960s?

No.

Buy stamps in books, designed by Pieter Huveneers, c. 1950 (POST 110/4331, PH896)

Buy stamps in books, designed by Pieter Huveneers, c. 1950 (POST 110/4331, PH896)

Our archivist Anna’s favourite posters of yours are the ‘A pleasing tone always’ and ‘Speak clearly’ posters. Who, or what, was your inspiration for these posters?

I chose to portray the telephonist as young and alert.

You went on to work for Australia Post. Was there something that particularly appealed to you, or inspired you, about the postal service?

Not really.

Which was your favourite organisation to work for?

The organisations which provided a well paid salary were attractive!

What would you say the differences are between poster design in the 1950s and now?

The graphic solution to the reproduction has reduced and relies more on photography now rather than design by hand. The personal and more painterly touch is missing.

Telegrams are urgent messages, designed by Pieter Huveneers, April 1952 (POST 110/1611, IRP 056)

Telegrams are urgent messages, designed by Pieter Huveneers, April 1952 (POST 110/1611, IRP 056)

Would you say the development of technology has made graphic designers more or less creative?

Less creative!

Ask Pieter Huveneers

Pieter Huveneers is a designer popular amongst GPO poster enthusiasts for, amongst other things, his designs for airmail and telephones.

Send your overseas parcels by Air Mail, April 1954 (POST 110/3220)

Send your overseas parcels by Air Mail, April 1954 (POST 110/3220)

For some decades he has lived and worked in Australia where he has designed logos for national brands such as Australia Post and the Westpac bank. But as a blog published last year by Quad Royal highlighted, little is known about the man whose designs are iconic on opposite sides of the world.

Recently we made contact with Pieter Huveneers, who is currently living on Australia’s east coast. Mr Huveneers has kindly agreed to speak to us about his work for the GPO and to allow his answers to be published on this blog. If you have a question for Pieter Huveneers, please leave a comment below or e-mail it to blog@postalheritage.org.uk by Wednesday 7 December. A selection of questions and answers will be published in January.

150 years of the Post Office Savings Bank

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Post Office Savings Bank (POSB), which opened for business on 16 September 1861. The Bank was set up to encourage ordinary people to save money safe in the knowledge that it was secured by the government. It also provided the government with a financial asset. The Bank did not just offer savings accounts. Over time it introduced a range of other services including government stocks and bonds in 1880, war savings in 1916 and premium savings bonds in 1956.

Romford Head Post Office - Savings Bank transaction, 1950 (POST 118/2058)

Romford Head Post Office - Savings Bank transaction, 1950 (POST 118/2058)

Over the years the POSB provided home safes to encourage people to save pennies at home before depositing the contents into their accounts.

Red Taylor Law Book Home Safe (OB1994.320)

Red Taylor Law Book Home Safe (OB1994.320)

It also produced a wealth of publicity material including leaflets, posters and even a number of GPO films, all encouraging the public to save with the Post Office. You can see a selection of POSB posters and poster artwork from our collection on Flickr.

Eureka. Artwork for a poster by Stan Krol, c. 1960 (POST 109/902).

Eureka! Artwork for a poster by Stan Krol, c. 1960 (POST 109/902).

In 1969, the Bank ceased to be part of the Post Office. Instead it became a separate government department and was known as National Savings. However, the Bank’s link with the postal service continued as post offices continued to act as outlets, handling deposits and withdrawals over the counter. On 1st July 1996 National Savings became an Executive Agency of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and from 2002 it became known as National Savings & Investments, later shortened to NS&I.

The BPMA’s Archive class POST 75 holds the records of the Post Office Savings Bank (POSB), including a copy of the Act of Parliament that established the Bank. The records range in date from 1828 until 1975 (the records dated after 1969 are ones the Bank did not take with it when it became a government department). They include acts and regulations, reports, publicity and publications, forms and notices. Further records are housed at The National Archives in Kew.

To celebrate the anniversary the BPMA has produced a new postcard pack including four POSB poster designs and two new greetings cards also featuring POSB posters. Find these on our Shop website.

A pleasing tone always…

Sometimes I find items in the archives that just ‘speak’ to me, and two posters, designed by Pieter Huveneers, certainly do. In my opinion, the vivid colours and benign faces of the ladies featured, with their outsize (and even technicolour!) eyelashes, have a particular charm. However, items that are now archive records can be viewed very differently by archivists than they were by those at whom they were originally directed.

Speak Clearly Always! 1958. (POST 109/23)

Speak Clearly Always! 1958. (POST 109/23)

Indeed, the subjects of these posters by Huveneers were not so happy with their aesthetic portrayal. Female telephonists at Liverpool Telephone Exchange believed the ‘Speak clearly’ illustration gave ‘such a strong impression of a vacuous mind’ that ‘it reflected adversely on their attitude to their jobs’. Despite the posters only being intended for display on staff notice-boards in telephone exchanges, and were therefore not visible to the public, the level of objection to the ‘Speak clearly’ poster was strong enough for it to be withdrawn.

A pleasing tone - always! November 1957 (POST 110/1636)

A pleasing tone - always! November 1957 (POST 110/1636)

Although the posters achieved their fundamental aims of being striking and capturing attention, it is difficult to see a clear link between the message and the accompanying illustration. It’s understandable that some telephonists felt attention was being directed more towards their appearance than the intended subject of ‘business efficiency’.

According to the Chairman of the Post Office Internal Relations Panel/Joint Production Council Huveneers was ‘trying to illustrate an idealised notion of the impression made by a telephonist who speaks clearly’. This implies that the purpose of the well-spoken telephonist was to conjure up an image of being easy on the eye!

Although the young telephonists at Liverpool Telephone Exchange didn’t want to be seen as doll-like caricatures, neither did they want to be seen as drab and old-fashioned. In 1958 some 53% of permanent female telephonists in London and the provinces were aged 25 and under compared to 3.5% aged 51-55.

An attempt to introduce a different style in the form of the ‘All depend on you’ poster also received an unenthusiastic response. The general feeling being that if a women of her more mature years (she looks fairly young to me!) had been any good ‘she would have been promoted long since and not still be sitting at a position’.

All depend on you! August 1954 (POST 110/1626)

All depend on you! August 1954 (POST 110/1626)

Perhaps if the men in charge at the GPO had not mistakenly thought that female telephonists were vying to be the pin-up voice of the telephone service they would have found them less ‘hard to please’. Thankfully for us they did, as otherwise we wouldn’t have these two wonderful posters!

Source: Internal Relations Panel/Joint Production Council (IRP/JPC): Comments on IRP posters IRP 127, 128, 131, 132, 135 and 136 ‘A Pleasing Tone Always’, ‘Speak Clearly Always’ and ‘They Depend on You’. Complaints from staff at Head Post Office, Liverpool (POST 122/2937)

– Anna Flood, Archivist (Cataloguing)