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.
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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