Happy 100th birthday to modernist master, Tom Eckersley

Today marks the 100th birthday of modernist master, Tom Eckersley. A pioneer in poster design for more than six decades, Eckersley’s distinct style pairs minimal, flat forms with bold colors and contours. His talent for whittling down subject matter with deceiving ease continues to inspire designers around the world.

eckersley1

Eckersley began his career in 1934 when he moved to London as a freelance poster designer. His emphasis on geometric shapes and heavy contrast – often resembling paper cut outs – paired well with workplace safety posters. He quickly became known for masterfully transforming bland public information signs into works of art.

Throughout his career, his artistic approach attracted global brands including the United Nations, the Worldwide Wildlife Fund, Guinness, Gilette, Unicef and London Transport.

eckersley

After working as a cartographer for the Royal Air Force and a poster designer for the Public Section of the Air Ministry during World War II, Eckersley turned his efforts to education. In 1954 he started the UK’s first undergraduate graphic design course at the London College of Printing (now the London College of Communication). Some of his most notable students include famed Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas illustrator Ralph Steadman, advertising executive John Hegarty, and agency mogul Charles Saatchi.

While Eckersley passed away in 1997, his legacy lives on. Often celebrated as the “godfather” of modern graphic design, his work gracefully separated communications from commercial art. His ability to break down complex messages in a digestible and visually appealing way is something that communications professionals still strive for.

eckers

As Lawrence Zeegen, Dean of the School of Design at LCC, stated in a press release earlier this year for their centennial exhibition of his work:

“As 21st century communication design and media races ever onwards, finding a moment to pause and reflect upon the discipline’s past, amidst the barrage of multi-disciplinary, multi-platform, multi-layered visual messages, is increasingly relevant. It is crucial in our understanding and appreciation of communication design’s past, present and future.”

We’ll cheers to that!

Are you familiar with Tom Eckersley? Which contemporary designers do you think he’s influenced?

The author

Kelsey Bryant
Kelsey Bryant

Kelsey is 99designs' Designer Marketing Manager. Born and raised in a small town in Connecticut, she moved to San Francisco in 2009 with a degree in Strategic Communications from Elon University. When she’s not running the designer blog, you can find her exploring the city, taking weekend road trips, and soaking up that California sunshine.

Related articles

33 famous graphic design companies from around the globe

33 famous graphic design companies from around the globe

In the competitive industry of graphic design, it can be difficult to establish a name brand. Nonetheless, there are a couple dozen design firms around the world that have managed to cut through the clutter and gain international prestige. Their roster of clients, impressive portfolio of work, prominence in local markets and international reach have made…

The amazing stylistic history of comic books

The amazing stylistic history of comic books

In a time when audiences were racing in droves to catch the latest talkie and hand-drawn animation was just finding its legs, a new medium brought kids (and adults, let’s be honest) back to reading. Comic books began as a dime-store novelty, and since then, they have gone through countless transformations, artistic explorations, public excises,…

Current Design Contests

Designers, check out these contests so you can start building your career.