From Lto R Harry Evans, Rupert Murdoch and William Rees-Mogg 1981
In 1981, after 12 years as art director of Radio Times, David Driver left to join The Times as it was settling under the new ownership of Rupert Murdoch. The great Harry Evans, editor of The Sunday Times, had taken up the editorship of The Times and appointed Driver as head of design. His task was to implement a major design review of the paper in collaboration with Edwin Taylor, the art director of The Times and The Sunday Times.
But both Evans and Taylor resigned a short time after, following conflicts with Murdoch. Driver found himself working under the editorship of Charles Douglas-Home. He knuckled down and put all of his energy into reorganising the look and feel of the paper, which coincided with a move from hot metal setting to photocomposition. The illustrator was his old friend Peter Brookes, who Driver had not only commissioned throughout his Radio Times years but also on an earlier project, Inside Story, at the beginning of the 1970s.
Covers of Inside Story illustrated by Peter Brookes in 1971.
Driver donated his time to designing and pasting up each issue of Inside Story,using a basic typewriter for the body text and News Gothic for the headlines.
Peter Brookes illustrated the two-colour wraparound covers; as can be seen, early signs of what was to become his destiny were beginning to surface. Driver recalls suggesting political cartooning to Brookes at a lunch. Shortly after that, he sent Driver a rather excitable letter, in which he said:
“Many thanks indeed for a most stimulating lunch yesterday. In fact, so stimulating is the idea of the cartoon that it is well-nigh impossible to think about anything else... I'd give anything for the chance – it’s totally where my interests now lie.”
Brookes did start to produce the occasional political cartoon for The Times but didn’t actually become its full-time political cartoonist until 1992, when Peter Stothard became editor.
Peter Brookes cartoon from 2012 during the phone hacking scandal.
The mid-1980s were a time of tumultuous change in the newspaper world. Eddie Shah, proprietor of the new newspaper Today, confronted the print unions head-on following Margaret Thatcher’s subduing of the print unions. But Shah's paper became the catalyst that ignited a bitter fight with the unions.
Eddie Shah with the first copy of his title Today 1986
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Murdoch was secretly having state-of-the-art printing presses set up at a new building located in Wapping: an initiative that had the full support of Thatcher, who was determined to crush the unions even further.
The Times moved from New Printing House Square, Gray’s Inn Road, to their new offices in Wapping. But, as Driver and his journalistic colleagues were to discover, their new offices quickly became a prime target for the unions, and they were engulfed under siege conditions.
SOGAT's year-long battle with Murdoch.
Driver recalls being bussed in each day to run the gauntlet of the baying print union workers who had surrounded the building in a bitter strike against News International Papers. It finally ended after an agonising year.
The end of an era.
Murdoch was triumphant and the production of newspapers had changed forever: on-screen make-up became the norm, leaving behind the traditional hands-on paste-up.
Driver’s daily routine would start at home at around 8am with a scan through all of the early edition newspapers while simultaneously eating breakfast. On his drive to The Times, he would listen to BBC4’s Today programme. At 11am, he would attend the morning conference with all of the section editors to run through the day's news agenda.
Around midday, Driver would have a conversation with the deputy editor about any special commissions and graphics/illustration. These would be progressed for delivery late afternoon. At 4pm, there would be an afternoon conference, where all news items would be firmed up. Layouts would be developed, assembled and designed ready for around 8pm. Driver followed this relentless routine for 27 years. I may be wrong, but I think he is the newspaper industry’s longest-serving design director.
For Driver, his time overseeing the design of The Times never achieved the same glittering accolades as his period at Radio Times. But it was recognised by the US Society of Newspaper Design Awards in1987. In 2003, he managed the change from broadsheet format to tabloid or ‘compact’ format, as The Times likes to call it. For a while, they ran both broadsheet and compact versions but dropped the former completely in 2004.
In 2006, Driver was involved in the introduction of a new typeface. Neville Brody was commissioned to redefine Times2 and advise on the main paper, which included the new display typeface Times Modern. Luke Prowse designed the display fonts, which were similar in spirit to Mercury, and Edwina Ellis drew a new masthead, which was introduced at the same time.
Just two posters from a run that spans decades designed for the Francis Kyle Gallery 1978
Above stamps for Nature Conservation 1986 and the interior of the presentation pack for Royal Mail 350th anniversary 1985.
One would have thought that, with the relentless schedule of The Times,Driver could do little else, but, as can be seen above, he designed posters and catalogues for long-term client Francis Kyle Gallery and stamps and presentation packs for Royal Mail. In 2001, Driver was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters in recognition of his outstanding contribution to design and his long association with Anglia Ruskin University.
Royal Mail stamp book cover and internal presentation pack spread for British Gardens 1983
David Driver at The Times
Driver left The Times on 8th August 2008. As is tradition, The Times produced a special cover for him to keep. He left the now almost silent atmosphere of 21st- century newspaper publishing, none of the curls of blue tobacco smoke hovering over the heads of the journalists tapping away on their noisy typewriters in the newsroom. That was a thing of the past, as was Driver on that last day. I find it astonishing that there is no mention of him on The Times’ Wikipedia page.
Six years on, what has Driver been doing? During the process of writing this profile, I met with him three times as we raked over our collective years in the design world. Like so many really talented creative people I have met over the years, he is extremely modest about his considerable talent – once again confirming my belief that those who have it never shout about it. Their work speaks for itself.
During our conversations, it transpired that, since retiring from The Times, Driver has been working on a series of illustrations based on aspects of the 1960s: a period rich in significant world events that have always fascinated him.
1. The Lee Harvey Oswald plan to assassinate John F. Kennedy 1963.
2. The death of Marilyn Monroe 1962.
3. Soviet space flight
This is not a commissioned project but self-initiated. He brought a large portfolio to my studio via taxi to avoid possible damage. He was visibly resistant about actually showing it to me, prolonging our conversation to delay the moment. He finally admitted that he was very nervous about unveiling the illustrations to me and had been dreading the moment, as very few people had seen them.
4. Animal space flight
Half an hour later, I was in a state of semi-shock. It was some of the most stunning and individual work I had seen in a long time. I asked him why he had never illustrated for Radio Times. “No I never did”, he said. I realised now why he was such a brilliant art director: his personal ability as an illustrator gave him a unique insight into the craft and the possibilities of illustration. During his period at Radio Times, he trail-blazed new ways of explaining complex issues through diagrams, often pairing two different illustrators on one story to great effect.
5. US Moon landing detail 1969.
6. Russian space flight
7. The Cuban missile crisis 1962.
It would be a tragedy if Driver’s work were not exposed in the commercial arena. But finding the right kinds of clients or agent is going to be key for him to work effectively. There are very few art directors working today who could match up to his brilliance, so commissioning him would need a super-bright person with the autonomy or willing to fight the banality of the sales executives and their safe predictability. Only The Guardian, New Yorker, Monocle and The New York Times come to mind as publications that could recognise the possibilities in Driver’s work.
8. The assassination of John.F. Kennedy 1963.
9. The Great Train Robbery 1963.
The bases of all of these illustrations are the humble pencil – and a 7H at that. The immaculately precise cross-hatching is mind-boggling. Some of the images are partly collaged or have areas of metallic paint, but all are symmetrically arranged as only a designer would do. The images reproduced here are so small that they cannot do justice to the originals, but I have pulled out some details to give a better idea.
I sincerely hope that we will see Driver’s work used in a sophisticated publishing arena in the not too distant future.
If you missed part one of the David Driver story click here
And if you would like to hear an interview with The Times political cartoonist Peter Brookes click here