Abram Games created some of the most striking poster work of the 20th century. His designs are now on show, as Suzanne Baum reports 

Games designed iconic posters for Transport for London and other British institutions.

Games designed iconic posters for Transport for London and other British institutions.

The work of one of the greatest graphic designers of the 20th century has gone on display at the Jewish Museum.

Prints and posters created by Abram Games feature in the exhibition, Designing the 20th century: Life and Work of Abram Games, which opened this week to coincide with what would have been the designer’s centenary year.

To mark the anniversary, his children Daniel, Sophie and Naomi, together with museum curator Elizabeth Selby, have picked a large number of his finest designs to be displayed at the show.

During a career spanning 60 years, the designer was perhaps best known for his work during the post-war period, when his output included the creation of symbols for the BBC and the Festival of Britain. Before that, he had been appointed an official war artist during the Second World War, designing more than 100 distinctive works.

Abram Games in his studio

Abram Games in his studio

His posters produced during this time – urging Britons to do everything to help their country, from joining the army to growing their own vegetables – were bold and striking. As well as working extensively on London Transport posters, Games’ achievements included designing the 1948 Olympic stamp.

According to his daughter Naomi, who lives in West Hampstead, her father had a strong Jewish identity and throughout his career produced many designs for Jewish organisations.

“A war memorial window designed by my father in 1987 was recently installed at the Jewish Museum. It is the perfect place to host this exhibition,” she said. 

“By showcasing my father’s work at this time, it feels an appropriate way to mark what would have been his 100th birthday year.

Games' poster for National Rail, 1951.

Games’ poster for National Rail, 1951.

“When I was growing up, he would spend hours at work in his cold studio. I would be there beside him at his desk and sit and scribble. I am so proud of what he achieved.”

As well as exploring his enormous contribution to British design, the exhibition touches on Games’ Jewish background, recalling that he was born the day after the First World War broke out, the child of immigrant Jewish parents living in the East End.

Games started a career as a freelance artist before being appointed to the official war artist post, with a brief to design the posters for which he became recognised.

His iconic works of art used simple and often stark designs to convey strong messages, and to create images that remain powerful today.