F.H.K. Henrion (b.1914; d.1990)

FHK Henrion

Having adopted British nationality in 1946, Frederic Henri Kay Henrion was born in Nuremberg on April 18 1914. From 1933 to 1934, Henrion trained as a textile designer in Paris with Fred Levi. Henrion studied at the Atelier Paul Colin from 1934 to 1935, also in Paris, as a poster and general graphic designer. Under Colin, Henrion became familiar with the posters of A.M. Cassandre and modern art developments, particularly surrealism. In 1935, Henrion won the first prize at the Salon d’electicité, Paris, and again in 1936 at the Salon de TSF. Between 1936 and 1939 Henrion had offices in Paris and London, where he designed posters, packaging and exhibitions, and exhibited worldwide including at the International Levant Fair Tel-Aviv (1936); the MARS exhibition, London (1936), the Paris World Exhibition (1937) and the New York World Fair (1939). When war broken out in 1939, he left France for good, with an early commission to design for the Smoke Abatement Exhibition.

During the war, Henrion was appointed consultant for the exhibitions division of the Ministry of Information, and the American Office of War Information in London. It was over the wartime period that Henrion’s work became familiar to the British public, and he established his reputation, as he produced a prolific number of public information posters, on a wide variety of subjects, including Red Army Day, VD and a gas exhibition. Henrion utilised a varied design approach, with many of his posters using skilful photo-montage and surreal compositions. From 1943 to 1946 he designed all the exhibitions of the Ministry of Agriculture. In discussion with Abram Games, Henrion approved of the Royal Society of accidents, and noted in Art and Industry in 1943 that ROSPA ‘have a definite policy and … commission posters in accordance with this policy with the result that they are producing some of the best posters of the war’. Henrion’s work was ‘familiar to thousands’. He believed in ‘aesthetically conceived design’, with the ‘idea’ the dominant factor, but with no need for a poster to be an ‘eyesore’. Henrion’s ideas on wartime poster design can be seen in a special edition of Art and Industry, in a debate with Games, in July 1943. Henrion clearly believed in the importance of the message, and worked (mostly voluntarily) for causes for which he felt deeply, such as Oxfam, revealing ‘another aspect of his ability to communicate important messages’. In 1947 he married Daphne Hardy, with whom he had had two sons and one daughter.

During the 1940s and 1950s, Henrion worked for advertising agencies and publishers, and was art editor of Contact and Futura magazines and The Compleat Imbiber. In 1951, he established the design consultancy Henrion Design Associates, which had numerous leading companies as clients, including KLM (Dutch airline), British Leyland and Olivetti. He was awarded an OBE for his contribution to the Festival of Britain pavilions. In the 1960s, he was a consultant to the British Transport Commission and consultant on house style design to British Olivetti and other industries. His work won him five awards at the international poster exhibition in Vienna, 1946, and was shown in London, 1951 and 1960, Stockholm, 1953, Paris, 1954, Lausanne, 1957, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, East Germany and in various touring exhibitions in the USA from 1953 to 1958. The notion of a house style and corporate identity itself are often associated with Henrion, and with Alan Parkin (with whom he had worked with on the KLM project), produced the seminal work Design Co-ordination and the Corporate Image in 1968, based on a mathematical systematic approach. A respected spokesperson for his profession, Henrion was president of AGI and Master of Faculy of RDI (1972-73); an influential teacher who lectured at Royal College of Art, London (1955-65); and leader of the faculty of visual communication at the London College of Printing (1976-79). In 1982 Henrion became a consultant for Henrion, Lund and Schmidt, corporate identity specialists. An exhibition of Henrion’s work was held at Staffordshire Polytechnic in 1989, the first place to offer a design/graphic design course, largely based upon the influence of Henrion.

Information taken from: All About Posters, FHK Henrion,, accessed August 28 2003; Hope, M. FHK Henrion, Five Decades a Designer, 1989, p.6; Livingston, A. and Livingston, I., Dictionary of Graphic Design and Designers, 1992, p.98; Amstutz, W.Who’s Who in Graphic Art 1962, p.241; Darracott, J. and Loftus, B., Second World War Posters, 1981 (1972), p.34; Brockhampton Press Dictionary of Design, 1997, p.97; ‘”Aesthetic” Posters as Answer to Critics’, Advertiser’s Weekly, October 12 1944, p.74; ‘The Poster Designer and His Problems’, Art and Industry, Vol.35, No.205, July 1943, pp.17-26

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  • FHK Henrion Archive
    This important archive has recently been relocated in the DHRC at the University of Brighton. German by birth, Henrion first trained as a textile designer in Paris before employment as a graphic designer in the studio of Paul Colin. After establishing his reputation working in Paris and London during the interwar years, he came to Britain in 1939. During the War he was a prolific poster designer for the Ministry of Information and, in 1951, established Henrion Design Associates, a consultancy concerned with exhibition, graphic and product design. HDA worked for many leading companies including KLM, British European Airways and Girobank. A founder member of ICOGRADA, he also played a significant role in the development of British design education. HDA later became more overtly international in scope through its retitling as HDA International in 1973 and later reconfigured as Henrion, Ludlow & Schmidt in 1982.
  • See Colin, P., ‘Paul Colin Looks at the World’s War Posters’, Art and Industry, Vol. 39, No.231, September 1945, pp.87-90 for Paul Colin’s thoughts on wartime poster design.

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