B•G•B (Bonus Guest Blog): WHITE TYPE ON RED


Guest Blogger: Alan Spindle, E79 CD

Alan Spindle is an intensely curious and fascinating man with a near encyclopedic knowledge of everything from Vespas to foreign films to 70’s era music and stereo hi-fi components, and yet very little with any practical application.  Perhaps not surprisingly, all that makes him an incredible skilled advertising creative.



A mini-industry has sprung up around an old British WWII poster, and it’s made me realize not just the power of words and simple design, but especially the power of white capital letters on a red background.


These posters were meant to reassure the British that living under a Nazi regime was something to be faced with a stiff upper lip and Arthurian resolve.

The English Government destroyed the posters after the war, since Germany didn’t take over (story here):

This message has struck a chord in today’s turbulent, tempestuous, tripped-out, terrifying, tumultuous times, and has been reinterpretated and mutilated and spun out all across the blogo-cloud.





Long ago, when Swine Flu surfaced as a Trending Topic on Twitter, we saw this:


And, of course the various American spins on British Reserve below.


2postersResident Type Nerd Lindsay Stevens thought at first this typeface was Gill Sans, but it seems this was hand lettered by some Skilled Ancient Being back in the 1940’s (story here).   

Having helped produce a couple thousand ads for Harris Bank over the last few years….


I’ve become attuned to the many wonderful, subtle possibilities of such a graphic look.  You don’t always need a seizure-inducing flashing visual to get someone’s attention.

To paraphrase Howard Gossage: “Do people read ads? People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad.”

Carry on.

By Alan Spindle, Creative Director, Element 79

2 thoughts on “B•G•B (Bonus Guest Blog): WHITE TYPE ON RED

  1. mark0905 says:

    Love the Harris ads. If the Brits take such simple instructions to heart, why are there no signs imploring: “Brush Your Teeth”? Or “Don’t boil the meat”?

  2. TLC says:

    Now that the Gossage quote trifecta is in play I’ll start by offering a different interpretation:

    People do what you make easy for them. And sometimes it’s reading a five word headline.

    I agree that advertisers today would do well to take cues from these posters, but I don’t think it has much to do with the color of the background. I think it has everything to do with appealing to everybody’s inherent laziness, particularly when it comes to stomaching another uninvited message.

    The beauty of such simplicity is in its low cost of entry. The posters possess an ease of digestibility that most are going to find palatable simply because it doesn’t take effort.

    I think that if you make something function in an easy enough way, the aesthetic appeal is built in. Writers like Bukowski and Hemingway wrote much of their stuff in a similar style – gruff, direct conveyance of information without the window dressing – and obviously did pretty well.

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