The Contributors, Robert Harling

an essay by Rowley Atterbury

Continuing the series of essays written by my late father, Rowley Atterbury, about the people that he felt had contributed to the graphic arts during his lifetime. Originally written in 1990 and revised and updated in ‘A Good Idea at the Time’, a History of Westerham Press produced in 2010 by Hurtwood Press.


Innovative design and typography

Robert Harling for a long period had an outstanding and innovative influence on design and typography. He created the types Playbill, Chisel, Tea Chest, Key Board and others for Stephenson Blake. He edited without doubt probably the most important typographic magazines of this century, Typography, Alphabet & Image and then Image. His series of books, published by Art and Technics, and his collaboration with that most distinguished of printers, James Shand, has exerted a profound influence over the industry for many years. He was responsible for re-designing The Sunday Times and subsequently guided its layout. His experience with design, printing and the Royal Navy enabled him to write a series of successful novels with accurate and informed backgrounds. His influence on the graphic arts is matched only by his grasp of the essentials of good design and his modesty.


A major influence on the graphic Arts

He was a distinguished art director of a London agency. He was editor of House and Garden for many years. He refused to have anything to do with the Double Crown Club because he would not go anywhere where there were no women, and when finally women were admitted to the DCC complained that he was not masochistic enough to attend let alone read a paper. His book Trio, an essay on Stanley Morison, Francis Meynell and Oliver Simon, remained unpublished while he rewrote it for the fourth time. His book on Eric Gill is still the definitive work on Gill’s alphabets. Critical of Johnston’s Sans, he was preparing a text on Sans faces in general and examining with a critical eye Johnston’s original allegedly flawed design, and its recent revival. He was a constant visitor and most weekends he and his wife Phoebe gave lunch or dinner parties at their home, The Glebe House, where wide-ranging discussions with his visitors were much enjoyed.

He was a major influence upon the graphic arts all of his life.


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