Design heroes, Notebook

Design heroes: Robert Brownjohn 2

Notebook: 23 May 2016 | DESIGN HEROES


A year ago I wrote a short article about one of my design heroes, Robert Brownjohn, and at the time of writing I had to trawl the internet to find information about him. However, in the last few weeks, a brilliant and comprehensive archive of his work has become available to view online. It has been compiled and curated by his daughter Eliza and can be viewed here. This website and fresh information from Eliza about her father, has prompted me to revise my original post and here it is updated and re-written…

My dad used to bank with Midland Bank and when I was about 11 or 12 he must have been sent a piece of marketing from Midland Bank called ‘How a cheque book works’. It was designed to encourage new customers to open a bank account and use a cheque book rather than save their money under a mattress and pay in cash. Anyway, when I spotted it, I was taken in by the clever design and simple bold, modern graphics. My dad let me hang on to it and I’ve still got it today in my collection of graphics. Looking back, I can see how it inspired and influenced me. It was only recently that I discovered that it was designed by the legendary Robert Brownjohn. ‘Bj’ as he was known, seems to have been one of 1960s London’s equivalents to Mad Men’s Don Draper judging by his lifestyle. He’s famous for designing the title sequences for the Bond films From Russia with Love and Goldfinger but in the late 1960s he also designed very simple but clever typographic cinema adverts for the Midland Bank and other Midland Bank marketing material including the press advert shown below and the lesser known booklet ‘How a cheque book works’. The booklet is 66 pages long and is designed to look like a chequebook. Some of the most striking spreads are shown here with simple, carefully crafted layouts, strong images and delicious white space: but to appreciate it in all its glory, including its fold-outs and clever use of tracing paper, I’ve made a short video so that it can be viewed page by page. Click here to view, or on the cover below…

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Advertising for Midland Bank on how a cheque book works in Punch magazine circa 1970. Image shot 1970. Exact date unknown.

Robert Brownjohn sadly died of a heroin overdose in 1970 aged just 44. Here’s an interesting article from The Telegraph about his creation of the James Bond title sequences. But to view his entire catalogue of work and be inspired, do visit robertbrownjohn.com. The website is full of great stuff and includes a 2005 Channel 4 news review of an exhibition of Bj’s work at the Design Museum.