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Edward McKnight Kauffer

American, 1891-1954

Edward McKnight Kauffer (1891-1954) was considered by many to be the most accomplished poster designer in the UK during the inter-war period. An American poster artist, illustrator and theatre decorator, he settled in the UK in 1914 and made a name for himself with a 1915 poster for the London Underground Railway Company. In 1921 Kauffer gave up painting and devoted himself full time to advertising design. His work for various transport and oil companies dominated the poster hoardings in England between the wars. They were highly colourful, slightly Cubist and rich in decorative motifs.

In the 1930s Kauffer was commissioned by director Colin Anderson to design promotional material for the revamped Orient Line. He advised on the decor of the ORION (1935) and designed and engraved a glass mirror showing the constellation Orion the Giant for the first class dining saloon. ORION was regarded as a landmark in British shipbuilding, in part because it was the first ship in which industrial designers had exercised any real influence. Kauffer also designed the Orient Line's new company logo during the 1930s which branded everything from crockery and cutlery to the ship's publicity brochures.

Kauffer was a founding member of The Society of Industrial Artists (established 1939) and was significant as a leader of a new profession. Prior to Kauffer, advertising art was often seen as the province of 'failed' fine artists. Kauffer's highly lauded poster work helped establish graphic design in advertising as a valid vocation.