Ray Hawkey - a reflection by Edward Milward-Oliver
"Shit. No day that starts with me finding out that Raymond Hawkey died has half a chance of turning out well. RIP"
– A posting on Twitter
Raymond Hawkey's graphic design work across newspapers, magazines and publishing, had a significant influence on the visual culture of Britain in the second half of the Twentieth Century. His early interest in American graphics while a student at the Royal College of Art subsequently helped change the look of British newspapers and magazines. He was Design Director at the Daily Express in its heyday from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s, where he introduced illustrated graphic panels into the news pages (a concept quickly adopted by other newspapers), and then served as Presentation Director of the Observer and Observer Magazine for eleven years until 1975. He advised The Independent and IPC Magazines through the following decade, while establishing himself as a best-selling author.
Hawkey is more widely known for his 30-year association with Len Deighton, and his black and white photographic jacket for The Ipcress File, published in 1962, had a major influence on the evolution of British book jacket design.
He produced only one drawing, which Deighton approved immediately. Robin Denniston, Deighton's editor at Hodder & Stoughton, was equally taken with the concept but had to overcome the fierce opposition of the sales force who felt it was too unorthodox. After the publisher declined to pay more than its usual 15 guinea design fee, Deighton topped it up to £50, which Hawkey split with Daily Express news photographer Ken Denyer.
What Hawkey did was to apply magazine and advertising techniques to the execution of what would later be recognised as a groundbreaking design. The jacket was shot on a half-plate camera in the Daily Express photographic studio using high-key lighting, which at the time was very much in vogue for taking upmarket fashion photographs. Although the content of the photograph was both menacing (the Smith & Wesson revolver and bullets) and dirty (the chipped cup of cold tea and the stubbed out cigarette), Hawkey thought it important that the overall look should be cool and sophisticated. In order to achieve this, Hawkey and Ken Denyer built a tent of white tissue over the set, through which it was lit, with a hole for the camera lens. The result was what Mike Dempsey, a former President of DAD, has described as ‘one of the key moments in design history’ when considered within the context of the period.
In addition to working with Len Deighton, Raymond Hawkey designed jackets and promotional material for many authors including Kingsley Amis, Frederick Forsyth, John Grisham, Ruth Rendell and Ian Fleming. His cover for the 1963 Pan paperback edition of Thunderball is possibly the most important jacket in the whole of the Ian Fleming/James Bond publishing history. His prescient design signalled that a new cinematic phenomenon had been born. Hawkey proposed that for the first time ‘James Bond’ should be elevated above the title – where it remained for nearly four decades. Not only that, he decided ‘James Bond’ should be twice the size of the title and author’s name, thus anticipating that the films would become the critical element in the marketing and success of the books.
His cover design was then replicated on Pan’s other Fleming paperback titles. The inspired choice of Hawkey was that of Bond co-producer Harry Saltzman, who convinced the chairman of Pan Books that the paperback editions – with their passé narrative illustrations - should be redesigned. And with the Pan Thunderball cover Hawkey also broke new ground in having bullet holes die-cut into the Brian Duffy photograph of the girl's back. He repeated the effect with the keyhole cut-out cover revealing Twiggy for the Penguin edition of Len Deighton's London Dossier in 1967.
A modest, generous man, always immaculately dressed, Raymond Hawkey was once talent-spotted by MI6 . . . but that story is for another day.
- Raymond Hawkey. ‘Advertising: no skeleton in anybody’s cupboard’ in ARK, The Journal of the Royal College of Art. Issue 5. RCA, 1952.
- Raymond Hawkey. The Penrose Annual: Graphic Arts International. Volume 66. Lund Humphries, 1973.
- Alex Seago. Burning the Box of Beautiful Things. Oxford University Press, 1995.
- Stephen Kent. ‘James Bond Gets a Facelift’ in One-off: A Collection of Essays by Postgraduate Students on the Victoria & Albert Museum/Royal College of Art Course in the History of Design. V&A/RCA, 1997.
- Alan Powers. Front Cover: Great Book Jackets and Cover Design. Mitchell Beazley, 2001.
- Rick Poynor (Editor). Independent British Graphic Design since the Sixties. Laurence King Publishing, 2004.