Illustrious graphic artist and thriller writer Raymond Hawkey, who designed the first James Bond paperback series for Pan, has died aged 80...

Raymond Hawkey (1930-2010)

24th August 2010

Raymond Hawkey was a illustrious trend-setting graphic designer who designed newspapers, magazines, book covers and even film credits sequences. He also produced four thriller novels. His style revolutionized British design in the 1960s at the height of spy-fever. Raymond (Ray) Hawkey was born in 1930 in Portsmouth, England. Hawkey was an only child, and his father (who worked as a commercial traveler) encouraged him to become an accountant. But after discovering a natural talent for drawing, Hawkey earned a scholarship for grammar school where his headmaster directed him towards the Plymouth School of Art, where he went on to achieve a National Diploma in Design. He also won a scholarship in 1950 to study at the Royal College of Art where he became a notable art director of the RCA's ARK magazine.

Whilst studying at the Royal College of Art (RCA), Hawkey assisted the picture editor of the English tabloid newspaper 'The Sunday Graphic' and won a design talent competition held by Vogue magazine. He was quickly recruited by Vogue's publishers Condé Nast where he worked as art director of magazine promotion for three years.

Hawkey then moved back in to newspapers, becoming the design director of the Daily Express in 1959 - the paper in which James Bond had made his comic strip debut a year previous.

His work with Michael Rand to revitalize the use of illustration at the Express won much critical praise. The same year, Hawkey was one of the founders of the Association of Graphic Designers.

Back in his RCA days, Hawkey first encountered Len Deighton when Deighton (another RCA scholarship student at that time) gate crashed a literary party that Hawkey was helping to organize. Instead of ejecting the intruder, Hawkey found much in common with him and they became lifelong friends.


Above: 'The Book of Bond' (1965) by Kingsley Amis, designed by Raymond Hawkey.

In 1962, Hawkey was Deighton's choice to design the cover of his first novel The IPCRESS File, which revolutionized jacket design. It shows a snub-nosed revolver lying next to a grimy coffee cup with a cigarette stub squashed out on the saucer. Between the two items are a bullet and a pair of paperclips, similar in outline, utterly divergent in purpose. Deighton's publisher Hodder had doubts, but the two creatives held their ground and history was made, and the first print run sold out within 24 hours. Deighton negotiated to have Hawkey's fee increased to £50, which he split with Daily Express news photographer Ken Denyer.

Above: Raymond Hawkey's groundbreaking cover for "The IPCRESS File".

The Guardian described Hawkey's work for Deighton as "simple, close-cropped, photographically based covers that became a template for all airport novels." He went on to design further covers for Deighton's books, including Horse Under Water, Funeral in Berlin and The Action Cookbook (where the IPCRESS revolver reappears, this time with a sprig of parsley in the barrel).

Deighton's best-selling novel got the attention of Pan, who were about to publish the James Bond novels in paperback. Pan had first been tipped to Hawkey's work by Bond producer Harry Saltzman, who told the chairman of Pan Books that they needed a vibrant design. Hawkey was hired to produce a set of visually striking covers for Ian Fleming's adventures in the mid-to-late 1960s. Hawkey had known Ian Fleming, but it would be ten years after the death of 007's creator before Hawkey would pen his own thriller. Hawkey had a long-lasting effect on the Bond novels after his Pan series was published, as he was the first to propose that 'James Bond' be placed above the novel's title, and that the lettering should be double the size.

Above: The Pan 1963 paperback covers for Thunderball and On Her Majesty's Secret Service. The Hawkey-designed covers would run from 1st printing on 3rd May 1963 through to their 12th edition in 1965. They are widely regarded as the most successful series of republished James Bond novels.

"Previous Bond covers had been illustrative, nicely painted but not exactly stylish. Subsequent covers would accentuate the guns, gadgetry and glamorous girls but little else. The Pan covers [by Hawkey] have a stark elegance, and are consistently menacing and memorable. Each has a single photographic image on a plain or textured background. Blurb is dispensed with. It’s the visual equivalent of a cruel, sardonic smile. Raymond Hawkey’s Bond covers share [The IPCRESS File's] minimalist aesthetic, although of course there are no grimy coffee cups in the world of Ian Fleming’s super-spy.

For Thunderball, Hawkey fills the cover with a close-up of a man’s naked back, perforated by two bullet holes. These are actual holes, die-cut into the card. Surrounding each is a torn-paper effect. It’s not the man who has been shot, it’s the book – and, as proof, the bullets can be found inside, depicted on the opening page. Bond’s life is so dangerous, this cover tell us, even books about him aren’t safe. Read on if you dare.

Interestingly, the Thunderball book is the only one where Hawkey is credited on the back. Its cover is the best of an outstanding set of images and the acknowledgement of the designer suggests the publisher thought so too."
- The Financial Times, March 8th 2008

Above (Left to Right): Len Deighton, Ian Fleming and Raymond Hawkey.

Other authors that had jackets designed by Hawkey include Kingsley Amis (Hawkey designed 'The Book of Bond'), Jane Gaskill, Thomas Hinde, Gavin Lyall, Frederick Forsyth and others. Hawkey's photo-realistic cover style is also seen in his title sequence for Richard Attenborough's 1969 film "Oh! What a Lovely War" for which Len Deighton was screenwriter and an (uncredited) producer.

Hawkey was appointed presentation director of The Observer newspaper in 1964 and lead the design of its colour magazine, where he worked until 1975. In July 1986 he was co-designer (with Tony Mullins) of the first dummy of The Independent, but it is not clear how much of his contribution survived the painful cycles of redesign before its eventual launch.

Hawkey also wrote four well-received thriller novels "Wild Card" (with Roger Bingham) in 1974, "Side-Effect" in 1979, "it" in 1983 and "End Stage" in 1988. His friend Deighton described Side-Effect as "compulsively readable, brilliantly researched and chilling as tomorrow's headlines".

Raymond Hawkey died in late August 2010 at the age of 80. He had lived in Notting Hill, London for 40 years. In his seventies, he was penning a new novel and worked occasionally as an editorial consultant, in between trips to his second home in Brighton. He is survived by his wife Mary, who he married 21 years ago.

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