In August 2011, I posted a piece about the Radio Times. Little did I know what a rumpus it would cause. I had compared the current Radio Times presentation with that of its 1969/81 predecessor. My point was simple. Back then, Radio Times was an intelligent, witty, innovative and beautifully designed magazine using the wonderful creative talent of the period. It was diametrically opposed to the current publication, which is a banal, commercially driven, trivial, personality-chasing rag with TV listings bolted on.
To read that original post and the very lively debate that followed in the comment section, check out the link at the foot of this post.
The man responsible for what I called the ‘golden days’ of Radio Times was its then art director David Driver: a man with printers’ ink coursing through his veins.
He has spent his entire creative life devoted to the editorial world. This journey started in 1963, when he was commissioned to illustrate a spread in Queen magazine by the great late art director of Town,Tom Wolsey.
David Driver’s own prowess as an illustrator equipped him with a remarkable ability for discovering, commissioning and nurturing real talent.
In fact, Driver’s early days were mostly spent as an illustrator. After his initial Queen debut, he produced illustrations for Town, Vogue and Woman’s Mirror before
1967. Driver commissioned these beautiful illustrations by Adrian George for the Observer Gunpowder Plot feature below. They are reminiscent of Milton Glaser and Heinz Endleman of the same period
Ever moving onwards and upwards, Driver joined Clive Irving Associates / Cornmarket Press, where he designed The Times Saturday Review – the first time that a British newspaper targeted Saturday as a potent publishing day. Still keeping his hand in as an illustrator, he worked on the BBC Publications magazine Nature (below).
In 1968, he was to art direct Welcome Aboard: a pocket-sized in-flight magazine for BOAC. It was beautiful and innovative, and Driver showed his panache for the creative commissioning of
illustration. These are real gems of the 1960s and were the precursor to what Driver would later do on Radio Times. But before that, he squeezed in some Penguin covers and the redesign of Harper’s Bazaar, including art directing three complete issues.
2 Penguin cover designer and illustrated by David Driver in 1968
In 1969, he arrived at the tobacco-laden atmosphere of Radio Times’ Marylebone High Street offices, which had
been there since the 1940s. Driver was about to take on the project that would make his name as one of Britain’s great editorial art directors. His task was to oversee the dramatic evolution of a listings magazine that had hardly changed since its inception but had a legacy of commissioning supreme illustration talent. Driver was acutely aware of this and was determine to continue to build on that legacy. He remembers those early days in the Marylebone offices: “The design/picture department was semi-open-plan but had intimacy, as did all the editorial offices. The delightful clatter of typewriters was very present – we loved them. Given its long-time occupancy, the history of the journal was evident and the atmosphere was warm and affectionate… So many of the staff, particularly in the programme pages department, had been at Radio Times before the Second World War. Their advice and knowledge provided me with great support, of course. I collected illustrations from Radio Times when I was a very young boy. So joining the magazine in 1969 was a dream realised.”
A John Lennon spectacled David Driver in 1975
He held the position of art editor for 12 years, during which he was responsible for an astonishing body of work, building up a coterie of the country’s most talented illustrators. His work was witty, inventive, surprising, educational, informative, funny and beautiful.
And for anyone who has worked on a weekly magazine, you will know how demanding it is, let alone keeping up a high creative standard. But he, along with creative collaborators Robert Priest, Derek Unglass and Claudine Meissner did, and the creative industry applauded him with numerous awards, including a handful of D&AD Silvers and the coveted D&AD Black Pencil for, as described in the 1976 D&AD Annual:
“In this and past years, consistently raising the standards of editorial design, with special reference to the unique integration of visual and written elements to form a journalistic totality.”
During Driver’s time, he also produced special Radio Times publications on Dr Who, War & Peace and the 50th anniversary of the BBC. He left Radio Times in 1981.
Part 2: will cover David Driver’s work after his period at Radio Times. Exclusively, this blog will premiere illustrations from a project that he has been working on for the past decade.
To read the original and highly controversial piece on Radio Times click here.