Caught part of an interview with Len Deighton on Radio 4 the other day in which his pre-novelist career as art director in a London advertising agency was mentioned – and the fact that he is designed the first British cover for Kerouac’s On the Road.
Len Deighton’s career – had he not become a writer – could easily have been as one of the UK’s leading graphic designers and stylist. Not only was he himself an talented designer; he knew, worked with and encouraged many other designers in the 1950s and 1960s who would go on to become leading lights of the British design scene.
Iin his book Burning the Box of Beautiful Things, which looks at the development of a post-modern sensibility in British art and design from the ‘fifties onwards, Alex Seago highlights the work of design students of the Royal College of Art (where Deighton was a student) and St Martin’s College of Art who were aware of the social and artistic implications of postmodern culture. It was a rejection of the cosy, neo-Romantic, Victorian vision of what art should be, and the genesis of a generation of artists who took it upon themselves to shake up the art and design establishment and strike out on their own path. Life centred on Soho, where the heady mixture of art, music and a party culture created an explosive combination. Len Deighton was at the centre of this revolution, first as student and then a writer.
- Len Deighton’s covers at The Deighton Dossier