Ashley Eldrid Havinden, who signed his work ‘Ashley’, was born in Rochester, Kent on April 13 1903. He studied drawing and design in evening classes at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London, whilst also taking lessons from Henry Moore (the sculptor). He joined W.S. Crawford, Ltd., advertising agents, as a nineteen year old trainee in 1922. He was promoted to become Art Director and a Board Member in 1939. Crawford’s became a leading advertising agency in the 1920s and 1930s, with most of this success attributed to Ashley. Ashley worked with account executive Margaret Sangster (later his wife), and copywriter G.H. Saxon-Mills to produce many innovative advertising campaigns. Art and Industry noted that Ashley had ‘done more than any other artist to bring new visual conceptions to the layout of press advertisements’.
Ashley was influenced by cubism, futurism and Bauhaus typography, and ‘by the mid-1920s he was developing a new typographic language for his advertisements’, particularly in the 1925 campaign for Chrysler, which was so successful it inspired many imitations. Ashley produced many successful and influential campaigns in the 1930s, including those of the Milk Marketing Board, the GPO, Simpson’s department store and Eno’s Fruit Salts, and in 1933 began to design rugs and tapestries, some used by Simpson. Ashley joined the Forces in wartime, where his artistic skills were put to use in camouflage work. He also designed typographical posters for the ARP and GPO, which ‘broke new ground in the use of words and colour as vivid poster material without any help from pictures’. Ashley created two varieties of monotype typeface: the Ashley Crawford in 1930 and Ashley Script, a heavy brush script, in 1955. Ashley’s post-war work included producing advertising materials for Daks, Wolsey and Pretty Polly. In 1946 Ashley was appointed Director of Crawfords, in 1947 he was appointed RDI (and was master of the Faculty in 1967 and 1969), and in 1948 became Chairman of Sit William Crawford and Partners, Industrial Designers. In 1951 Ashley received an OBE for his services to graphic design, and was elected President of the Society of Industrial Artists (now the Chartered Society of Designers) in 1953, and President of the AGI between 1957 and 1960. Art and Industry again discussed his work in January 1957, particularly how he was influenced by, and a pioneer for, ‘the forward art movements of his time’.