DSC_0677

Feature by

Ken Briggs and his iconic designs for the National Theatre

The typographic designs produced for the National Theatre by Ken Briggs are not only iconic and depict the Swiss typographic style of the time, but remain a key example of the creation of a cohesive brand style.

The typographic designs produced for the National Theatre by Ken Briggs are not only iconic and depict the Swiss typographic style of the time, but remain a key example of the creation of a cohesive brand style.  

Ken (Kenneth) Briggs was a lover of modern jazz, had an interest in French painting and enjoyed watching Japanese films. He was born in 1931 in Derbyshire, during the Great Depression in the United Kingdom and at the age of 16, he attended the Chesterfield School of Arts & Crafts. After finishing his studies, he obtained a scholarship to study in London, at the Central School of Arts & Crafts, on the Book Design and Production course. He studied alongside famous British designers such as Ken Garland, Colin Forbes, Alan Fletcher and Derek Birdsall. All, of which played a major part, in the history of British graphic design.

After graduating and spending two years conscripted to National Service, Ken started his career as a typographer in an advertising agency called Everetts (1955), a job he disliked, not only the work, but also the people. After a year at Everetts, he left the business and worked as a designer for the National Trade Press, a job he much preferred, but later was fired, due to a conflict in options with the editor.

In the late 50s Ken was commissioned by various clients including the Arts Council and Rathbone Book and began teaching part time alongside his design work. During the 1960s he was asked to pitch for the design contract for The National Theatre by Stephen Arlen, (one of Kens previous clients). And as the winning applicant he was appointed to design the posters, programmes and other printed matter for the National Theatre. His application featured a photographic element and carefully composed Letraset, which set the basis of the future designs for the National Theatre.

Here’s a few examples from the archive of the programme designs by Ken Briggs.

National Theatre - Booking 1976 -Ken Briggs
National Theatre – Booking 1976 – Ken Briggs
National Theatre - Booking 1976 -Ken Briggs
National Theatre – Booking 1976 – Ken Briggs
National Theatre - Booking 1976 - Ken Briggs
National Theatre – Booking 1976 – Ken Briggs
National Theatre - BlaC - Ken Briggs

Interested in hearing more about the collection or using the archive? 

You can sign up to the design archive newsletter here http://eepurl.com/hkBeHP

Further info and references 

The Master Builder, Talking with Ken Briggs by Sara De Bondt and Fraser Muggeridge

National Theatre Posters A Design History [Unit 33] by Author: Rick Poynor

http://www.eyemagazine.com/blog/post/ken-briggs-1931-2013

More articles

To Have and To Hold, contains hundreds of bag designs collected during over half a century. The book is a must-buy for anyone interested in ephemera, the history of design or British high street history.
Graphis is one of the industries most long-standing magazines. It was first published in 1944 and founded by Walter Herdeg and Walter Amstutz in Zurich, Switzerland. It was released bimonthly and was trilingual, with articles in English, French and German.
Theo Crosby was born in South Africa in 1925 and moved to Britain in the late 1940s. He was a highly skilled designer, architect and sculptor. He became the technical editor of Architectural Design magazine in 1953 and remained in the post for almost a decade. The large format magazines feature an array of content including information on buildings, materials and architectural plans.
Ken was born in 1929, in Southampton and grew up in a small market town in North Devon. He was a principled man, with strong values and views against the hyper-consumerism we live with today. Ken studied at the London Central School of Arts and Crafts in the 1950s and was taught by Herbert Spencer, Anthony Froshaug and Jesse Collins. Whilst at the School he studied alongside designers Ken Briggs, Alan Fletcher and Colin Forbes.