I’m a huge fan of Abram Games and his bold, direct style. He was responsible for many of the world’s most iconic images. If you don’t know who he is, well all I can say is read on and research his name today.
Abram Games 1914-1996 was British and one of the world’s top graphic designers, his career spanned 60 years. His father was a Latvian photographer and his mother a seamstress (like mine) from Poland/Russia. In 1930 he was lucky enough to attend Saint Martin’s School of Art where many highly successful people study and meet each others before their careers take off. But he wisely left after only two terms because if you REALLY know what you want to do (and you have the talent) the best thing is to start doing it, get into a great company and network there. He took a job in a commercial design company, probably an ad agency, and in the evenings went to life drawing classes.
This early work set him in very good stead and people really started to take notice of him. They didn’t have social media like Instagram and Twitter then of course so your work was your publicity. When war broke out in 1939 he became the official war poster artist. His work became propaganda and in fact since those times we’ve been constantly bombarded by propaganda, it’s just usually more subtle.
To be seriously great at something requires incredible talent, discipline and patience. Many great artists become so by collaboration and working with teams but others, like Games did, work entirely alone. It’s not for everyone. I couldn’t work like that but I have friends who’s whole careers have been solitary. Games worked with small thumbnail sketches (I did too partly because my drawing was terrible) in many permutations and used lots of photographic reference. He’d show his ideas to his family and if they didn’t get it he’d throw it in the bin. This reminds me of Dave Trott’s approach ‘if your mum doesn’t understand it it doesn’t work.’ One of the biggest mistakes creators can make is becoming too close to their work and forget about their audience and try to be too clever. Clients are the same very inward facing and unable to gauge the public. If Abram found a client who didn’t like his work or wanted him to change it he would resign and tell the client to commission another artist. This is also how Woody Allen became so successful, you need discipline and self belief in bucket loads. Remember what you put up with you get more of.
Like many great artists Abram Games creativity wasn’t restricted to one medium, for Games his interest was inventing and industrial design. He was ahead of his time and came up with a portable duplicating machine by Gestetner and an amazing Cona Coffee maker.
In his later career Games was designing stamps, logos, travel posters and so on. Here’s a great example.