A few years ago I needed an old beer poster for a presentation.
I knew the Art Director’s name – John Knight, so headed to Google – nothing!
I then searched the agency name, the year, the writer’s name, the photographer’s name – nope!
Desperate, I googled every every miss-spelling I could think of – diddly squat!
I eventually found it after trawling through a ton of old awards books.
While leafing through all those award winning ads from the 70s and 80s, I was struck but how few were John’s.
He was a huge influence on my generation of creatives, consistently coming up with new, fresh ways of making ads, how could he be so underrepresented?
“Truly groundbreaking work never does very well at the awards, it splits the juries and ends up not getting voted in. John suffered a lot from that.” John Hegarty told me (John was his old boss at TBWA).
The problem with looking at all the fresh work 30 years later is that things move on, what was innovative in 1985 is unlikely to feel so today.
Once a unique path is forged it’s then open to the public, any idiot can then follow it.
For a bit of context, here’s what most ads from the time looked like, it’s a very good ad, but it looks exactly like an ad.
This is a 48 sheet poster from the same period of John’s.
It would’ve been about 20 foot long.
Coming across it on a street would’ve been startling.
No logo (usually bottom right).
No end line.
No product shot.
No pun. (They were all the rage at the time.)
Just a single photograph.
In the photograph was hidden a headline, logo, end line and product picture, but they were all woven together in an image that evoked another era.
An era that probably brewed better beer.
It made me think an old brewery in the Midlands was cool.
Not an easy thing to do.
I found out it was produced by an Art Director called John Knight. (Bottom left.)
Known to friends as ‘JFK’.
Not because his middle name was Frank, Fred or, like the better known JFK, ‘Fitzgerald’, John’s ‘F’ was due to his habit of breaking up words with an ex-fuckin’-spletive.
“It shocked people, swearing wasn’t as common back then” John’s old writer Ken Mullen told me.
His ads weren’t like other people’s, here’s why:
1. The style of his ads are bespoke to each client.
E.g. The beer posters are made from bits of pubs, the Laura Ashley ads are made from fabric and the Duckham’s oil ads are made from car parts.
2. The art direction feels like a human being made it.
3. His ads don’t look like ads – so people look at them.
Here’s the earliest ad I could find of John’s.
There are three creatives credited, an established team plus a junior – John, so I think it’s safe to assume it was John’s idea.
J. WALTER THOMPSON.
Although a sweary, hard-drinking Millwall supporter, John also had a sensitive side; he was an expert on wild flowers, bred canaries and helped green charities before they were called green charities.
HELP THE AGED.
John sweet-talked Lord Snowdon into shooting this poster.
“It ran for 14 years…every time it came down, fundraising fell” – Peers Carter (John’s writer on the poster.)
In the seventies you were either a Designer or advertising Art Director.
You didn’t skate between the two, weirdly, advertising art directors would consider it a diss to be called a ‘designer’.
John did both.
For me, this campaign is one of the best poster campaigns ever.
(I presume this last one parodies the famous Fiat ad from the time -‘Hand built by robots’.)
“He was no believer in deadlines.
I remember once on Banks’ weeks and weeks were going by without anything happening, I thought the only way to solve it would be to get everyone in the same room to find the culprit.
John came in last, looked around at assembled faces and said ‘looks like I’m gonna need fuckin’ legal representation’ “. – John Hegarty (his Creative Director at TBWA.)
He managed to convince some of the least commercial artists of the day to grubby their hands with adverts; David Hockney, Eduardo Paolozzi and Dame Elizabeth Frink.
Convincing Volvo to pay their fees wouldn’t have been a walk in the park either.
But he made it happen.
A campaign knocking Gordon’s, the gin in the green bottle.
(Great shots by Brian Griffin.)
He was doing illustration/photography mash-ups before the term ‘mash-up’ was released to the general public.
A great product placement idea, done with a real product.
For the time, these layouts would’ve been considered very ‘out there’.
A great shot by Bob Carlos Clarke. (That smudge above the guy’s head says ‘Sorry about Thursday’.)
Apparently John lined up artist Allen Jones to illustrate the Evian campaign, it was all ready to go when the client got cold feet, worried that the imagery may be too erotic.
In the end, illustrator Conny Jude stepped in and did a great job.
JOHNSON & JOHNSON.
“For a writer like me it was terrific working with John, he’d take your thoughts and ideas into surprising places.
On Qantas, for example, I’d written a long copy ad about the effects of jet lag, John went down to the studio and, to echo the effects of Jet lag distorted and distressed all the type, which was fine, and then, without telling me, swapped around the first four lines of copy.
It made no sense.
He then hid from me to try and avoid the possibility of me trying to change it.
When people, including me, saw what he’d done it seemed ridiculous, in retrospect it was brilliant.’’ – Giles Keeble.
“Before we worked together at WCRS, I nearly worked with John at AMV.
I was going to be to be paired with Brian Morrow, an art director from TBWA, at the last moment David Abbott informed me that Brian would be working with another writer instead, Brian contacted me and said ‘You should speak to John Knight, he’s the one I copy.” – Giles Keeble.
DULUX NATURAL WOODCARE.
Very simple, cool homemade font.
“The Laura Ashley ads we did with the illustrations made from their fabrics were blown up and put in the windows of all their shops, they used to stop people in the streets.” – Giles Keeble.
Shot by photographer Lucinda Lambton.
THE DAILY MAIL.
They look pretty straight forward now, but I remember seeing them at the time; they weren’t like any McDonald’s ads I’d ever seen before, they signalled that McDonald’s were changing.
Not just as a burger company, but an advertiser too.
Johnnie Walker (tests).
Atomic Energy Authority.
“Unfortunately John didn’t have the talent to handle his talent.
He was a good influence in the department, would have made a good lecturer. Inspirer.”
– John Hegarty.
Sadly, in October 1996, John lost an 18 month battle with cancer, aged just 50.
In the late eighties he goes head to head with the Art Director responsible for that Sainsbury’s ad I showed earlier – AMV’s Ron Brown.
John argues that most Art Directors pick up a phone to a photographer the minute an ad is approved, and that there’s a whole expressive, distinctive world of Illustration that is being ignored, Ron argues that real life beats interpretation.
Strangely, this debate is just as relevant today.
In the following issue, Gerry Farrell has a pop at him about the article, (on the plus side – good portrait).
I knew Lorraine Chase had been John’s partner for twenty years, I’d heard she’d inspired the Campari script that made her a household name.
It’s writer, Terry Howard, sat next door to John at JWT and would often hear Lorraine through the walls, he could never quite reconcile the elegant face with the common voice.
When flicking around the internet looking for John’s work I found this headline about Lorraine’s time in I’m A Celebrity Get me Out Of Here! – ‘”Tedward was a reminder of Lorraine Chase’s former, deceased partner John Knight” says Emmerdale star.
27 responses to HANDS UP WHO’S HEARD OF: John Fuckin’ Knight?
The inhaled hiss of a pissed off python announced John Knight’s arrival one lunch time in the office he and I both shared with 3 other junior art directors at 40 Berkeley Square in 1968.
“’Cor, fuckin’ ‘ell!” he said, cupping his right fist in his left palm. He’d just returned from a hospital check up having had a hernia removed the week before, and I assumed his screwed up face signified post op discomfort. I was wrong. “Just look at me fuckin’ knuckles, Nilw,” he invited. I looked and winced. The skin of each knuckle was scraped, the wounds highlighted with blobs of blood.
“Christ! How’d you do that?”
“The bus was crowded and I ‘ad to stand all the way ‘ere. Then this black cunt gets on. He’s pissed and as the bus pulls away, he makes a grab for the over’ead rail, misses and falls against me fuckin’ ‘earnia and it really fuckin’ hurt. And e’s only grinnin’ at me. He thinks it’s fuckin’ funny, dun ‘e? So I fuckin’ popped ‘im, didn’ I? Look what ‘is fuckin’ ‘amstead’s did to me fuckin’ German. I should’ve stuck me fuckin’ boot in.”
Without exaggeration, this is how Peckham born and raised, John Knight, spoke, which, in the advertising business, earned him the nick name, J.F.K., the origin of which, I’m sure I don’t have to explain.
Hearing the F word as often as you did in John’s company was something you got used to but seeing the word written down so many times is not easy on the eye, so from here on in, I’ll leave it out, as John himself would have said.
In appearance, the 1968 John Knight was what you might describe as ‘Post-Mod’. His hair was longish, lank and dead straight, his face, impish. He was 6ft tall and skinny as rake, the 3 buttoned jacket of his grey-green suit, hanging loose on his clotheshorse like, bony frame, the trousers flapping shy of his thick-soled, heavy, American style black brogues.
John told me that he’d worked for a printer when he left school, but wishing to better himself, he left his job and enrolled at the London College of Printing, which at the time was fast-emerging as THE training ground for would be advertising art directors with a reputation for producing many of the business’s stars, most notably, Sir John Hegarty, of the now equally famous agency, Bartle, Bogle Hegarty, founded in 1982.
John was never shy and always spoke his mind, a trait, which was to land him in trouble at the LCP, frequently getting him thrown out of lectures and lessons.
“There were some great people there, but some right wankers, and I used to give ‘em a hard time,” he told me.
He made it through the LCP course with a folio of work good enough to get him a job at JWT. And while he towed the line and did what he was told, as all we assistant art directors did, he was already fiercely ambitious and had ambitions to work at what he considered to be a more creative agency than he thought JWT was at the time.
At times, the juniors got the opportunity to work one their own with young copywriters on projects their immediate bosses considered relatively un-important or that they didn’t have time to do themselves. These were times when we could do the work the way we thought it should be done and let their real creative juices flow.
John sometimes teamed up with Harry XXXXX, a young Jewish writer whom he referred to as ‘H’. H found John relentless in the pursuit of good ideas and between them produced some great work over a couple of years, albeit on fairly low budget projects. What was important for young teams (still is) was to get good work into print and the ‘book’ (your personal folio) and/or the ‘book’ ( the D&AD annual) to further a career by moving up the industry ladder, usually by getting a job at a place with a higher profile.
This John Managed after about 2 years, announcing one day he’d got a job and the newly formed Saatchi and Saatchi. After about a year at Saatchi’s, John moved on to Doyle Dane and Bernbach, in Baker Street, and American agency most famous for it’s Volkswagon advertising. Here he got to work with some famous creative luminaries, such as Art Director, Derek Hass and writer, Alastair Crompton. He did quite well, getting a VW ad into the D&AD annual, but fell out with creative Director, Dawson Yeoman who made him redundant, blaming the 3-day week.
I’d been made redundant from FCB at about the same time and met John in Berkeley square one morning. His image had changed from Post Mod to designer scruff. He wore a hooded tracksuit top, tight jeans, steel toe-capped boots and his hair was down to his shoulders. Alan Thomas had just returned to JWT as creative director and John told me Alan had hired him.
“Go and see Alan, Niwl, and come and get stuck in,” was his advice. It wasn’t a bad idea but felt to me as if I’d be going backwards. 3 weeks later, I got the job at Benton and Bowles. Under Alan, John was given a free reign and produced some great work, especially on Guiness, but after 3 years, was on his way again, this time to TBW, in Covent Garden, where (Sir) John Hegarty was creative director.
I met John at an adverting awards evening at the Grosvenor House Hotel when I was at McCann’s and gave him a lift home afterwards. He said goodnight to J.H. on our way past his table and I asked John what he was like.
“He’s a really nice bloke, and shit hot.”
A couple of years later, I picked John up as I drove through Peckham on my way to work. It was about 10.30., so we were both late. I asked him if this was a problem where Hegarty, whose reputation as a workaholic was legendary.
“Nah,” said John, who’d lost none of his cheerful, charming Cockney charm, despite his success, “I do it to piss Hegarty off.”
“I thought you admired him.”
“He’s just a fuckin’ machine,” was the surprising response.
Despite his opinion, the work John produced at TBWA was probably his best. I didn’t like all of it, but everything he did was original and beautifully art directed in John’s own inimitable, wide-ranging style. None of it could be called ordinary. If John Knight was anything, he was real mould breaker.
Malcolm Gaskin, one of TBWA’s creative directors at the time, said after John’s death, that he always believed John to be a bit of a genius. Gas, as Gaskin was known, had a standout track record himself, but he and John didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of issues and John told me once that he’d just been in a meeting with Gas and his partner, Neil Patterson, who’d both been lecturing John and his writer about humour.
“They ain’t got a sense of humour between them,” he said, “I heard that Neil has been talking to Y&R about going to the agency as creative director. I might ring ‘em up and tell ‘em what a genius he is. I might even offer to contribute to his salary, if it’ll speed his departure.”
While I was at McCann’s there was an infusion of young talent from various art schools throughout the country particularly from Liverpool. Often preferring to spend time amongst younger people, I got to know them all quite well and would offer them advice on their career paths, which was not so much about doing things the way I had, but rather the opposite. I’d missed a lot of opportunities early in my own career by making some wrong decisions, and I always encouraged them not to compromise and make the most of their talents. The main advice being to get out of McCann’s as soon as they could.
Two particularly talented people among them, art director, Vince Squibb, and writer, Ged Edmonson were both partnered with other people but really wanted to work together. I went to the management on their behalf and recommended they put these two young guns together if they wanted a really hot, award winning team on the staff. They took no notice and I suggested to Vince and Ged that if they wanted to work together, they should build a fresh, spec portfolio together and apply to some of the renowned creative agencies.
They took my advice, and within a couple of months produced work that any creative person in the business would be proud of. They went to see David Abbot at Abbot Meade Vickers, who was apparently astonished by the quality of their work, said he would’ve taken them on immediately, if he had vacancies. Instead he sent them to see John Kelley, creative director at Lowe Howard Spink, who hired them on the spot. Despite recognizing their talent, even I was amazed that Vince and Ged got a job at a top agency so quickly.
Needless to say, they did very well at Lowes, winning several awards for work on Mate’s Contraceptives, Heineken and Stella Artois leaving the agency after about 4 years later to go to the newly formed Still Price Court Twivvy and de Souva. They didn’t stay long because it meant too many compromises where the work was concerned, Vince going back to Lowe’s and Ged to White Collins Rutherford Scott.
To me it was a sad breakup of the one of the best young teams in the industry, but they both continued to do well. Something like 15 years later, Vince is now a top film director with the production company, Gorgeous, and the last time I spoke to Ged he was working at McCann’s, Manchester, ironically.
Most of the young creatives at McCann’s shared a large office together which adopted the nickname of The Playpen, where I’d spend as much time as I could, finding it such a lively, stimulating place to hang out. The ‘kids’, as they became known, also gave me the nickname ‘Granddad’, obviously believing that because of my 34 years against their average of 20, it was entirely fitting.
Several playpen inmates became what I hoped would be lifelong friends and though I don’t see any of them very often, this looks like being the case. Art director, Katie McClen, is one of these, and, having returned to the UK from quite a few years in South Africa, with her 16 year old daughter, I see her several times a year when she and I walk across the cliffs of Eastbourne, putting the world to rights as we go. Katie is one of those rare people who make you feel glad to be alive.
Katie is still the stunning, sparkly, fun loving lady she always was, and, after an introduction from me, was also a close friend of John Knight’s until his death in 1996. At his funeral, copywriter, Giles Keeble, read a beautifully appropriate eulogy he’d written for John. It began:
“John Knight loved type, he loved photography, he loved creating exciting advertising. John Knight loved wild flowers. John Knight loved birds and he loved birds…”
This was quite a poignant statement. John was an authority on wild flowers and the feathered variety of birds, breeding his own canaries, neither activities seeming to fit with the image of the rough, tough, Doc Martins sporting, Millwall supporter he willingly portrayed. John was also a dedicated lover of the other bird variety of bird, namely the human type, almost to the point of obsession. It was with this in mind that when I suggested Katie give him a call at TBWA with a view to showing him her work and asking his advice, I warned her to be careful. She asked me what I meant, but I just repeated the caution.
When Katie returned from her meeting with John, she seemed extra smiley. I asked her how it went, and she said John was very helpful and constructive when he looked at her work as they chatted for about half an hour. But then, as I’d feared he might, he lost control, leapt up onto his desk and launched himself on top of her. Katie said he was all over her like an octopus, a trait of John’s I’d seen him demonstrate on several occasions, notably once when my girlfriend came to our office at JWT to meet me and John grabbed her in much the same way.
“Cor, darlin’, “ he exclaimed, “You look like you’ve just got out of the bath!”
As I said, John and Katie became firm friends. Friendship was where things stopped, though several times John told me Katie would one day be the mother of his children. Whether this would or would not have happened, we were never to find out as John contacted lymphoma a couple of years later, and though he bravely declared he was going to beat the disease, he suffered a prolonged treatment regime, only to pass away in his sleep.
The three of us met up several times before he became ill and I once asked him who were his advertising heroes were.
“I don’t have any,” was his emphatic reply, “Who wants to do layouts like Neal Godfrey or Ron Brown? They’re already doin’‘em.”
Fair comment, I suppose.
Towards the end of his life, John’s writer at the time, Kenny, and Gas went to see him in hospital. Kenny asked him if he could see a light at the end of the tunnel.
“I can’t even see the bleedin’ tunnel,” was John’s typically witty, but tragic reply.
At his funeral, the JFK anecdotes came thick and fast. Kenny said that he had once done some crafty freelance for an account director at TBWA. The guy came to his and John’s office one day and presented Kenny with a top of the range Mont Blanc fountain pen for helping out.
When the bloke left, John commented, “I suppose he finks that’ll make you into a real writer instead of some fuckin’ old hack.”
JFK to a T.
* * * * * * * *
16.24. July 4th, 2013.
Thanks Neal, fascinating. D.
On the subject of copywriting:
“There’s no one I admire more than a good copywriter. I can’t do what they can. If you’re lucky enough to work with a good writer, you get more time to concentrate on the art direction. Good copywriters are worth their weight in gold.”
To John, and idea wasn’t an idea until it was complete all the way to print or production.
“There was this art director who left TBWA to go to AMV, but all he had to show for his time at TBWA was hundreds of sheets of fuckin’ paper! Anyone can do that. Nothing counts unless it gets into print.”
On the subject of Millwall F.C.
“If Liverpool ever play Millwall at the Den, it’ll be a fuckin’ bloodbath!”
On the subject of the senior female copywriters who ruled the JWT roost in the late Sixties:
“She don’t like me ‘cos she knows I can’t really draw. She’s missin’ the fuckin’ point!”
John Claridge. Good to see the Qantas ads I shot for John, we went round the world looking for different time zones, also more ads in that series. Great times. Those were the days!!
Hey John, good to hear from you, we did some sky stuff together too for Singapore Airlines, when you were in Rivington St.
Did you do anything else with John that you’d have good reproductions of?
Couple of the Duckhams adds, Burn Rubber Not Oil & Hot, But Not Bothered
NB: “Do you fancy working at AMV, John?”
JFK: “What, for 75 grand a year and a fuckin’ Aston Martin? No fanks.”
John Knight influenced Chris Martin to hire me into my very first job, which was at TBWA. Both John and Chris were kindness itself to me as a junior art director, and I spent much of my first weeks sharing an office with John.
Apart from being quite a unique talent, John was actually genuinely interested in younger people, if he found them interesting. He could also be very insightful about business and the job of an art director and gave me a lot of very good advice.
I was given the job of art director on Singapore Airlines, with the writer Alex Ayuli, who was also mentored by John. We were following on from him and Ken Mullen, on an account that most TBWA creatives wanted to avoid as there was little room and/or budget for anything new as most of the ads that ran in Europe out of TBWA London were adkits from Batey’s in Singapore. The ad “Sorry about Thursday”. That is John himself standing at the top of the steps. There was also an ad for the airline that had a lovely Bob Carlos Clarke pic of Concorde (Singapore Airlines had bought two. They never flew London to Singapore as the Soviets wouldn’t allow them through their airspace, according to John). I asked John how they got to photograph Concorde from above. His reply: “it’s a fuckin Airfix kit. Made it me self at home on the kitchen table”.
To be fair re the Volvo work, it was Chris Martin who initiated it. John told me he visited Hockney in London and I asked him, as I was and still am a Hockney fan, how he had briefed the artist. John’s response was that they had simply had a few cups of tea together and he asked if it was ok if Hockney did them a picture. I asked John if Hockney had asked to do a portrait of him. John: “oh fuckin ell no. You mean lying face down on a bed with just a pair of white socks on? No fuckin way”.
I am glad I knew John Knight, and that he wanted to know me.
Thanks for that memory.
a) You won’t remember this, but I came in for a book crit with you when you were at TBWA.
I remember two things about it.
First, you talked about Art Direction coming from the brand or product, the example you used was a campaign you were working on where you had taken the colours for the graphics from a parrot. (Was it for Singapore?)
Second, I left my brand new fancy Sony Walkman in your reception or office and didn’t get it back.
(Still bitter about it.)
b) I didn’t know John, but worked for Chris Martin at Edwards Martin Thornton for a couple of years.
He truly was kindness itself.
(Certainly the kindest Beau Bridges look-a-like I’ve ever come across.)
c) I know it’s unlikely, but you wouldn’t have or know where I could get hold of any more of John’s work that isn’t in the post about him? Roughs, Rejects?
a): shit, was that your Walkman, Dave? I think I pawned that to help buy a ticket to Sydney.
I hope I gave something worthwhile in a book crit, so thanks, but a junior art director doing that? Hmm. I must have had a trip on my ego, before it tripped me up.
b): Chris was very much an oenophile and at least once raced another guy in Britain to be the first to get the Beujolais Nouveau of that year into the UK. Chris hired a couple of guys in France and a private plane to do that. I don’t know if Chris won the bet, but I do recall most of the 80 strong staff of TBWA getting utterly bladdered on the wine from lunchtime onwards that day.
c): the only thing I can think of to obtain samples of work that John was involved with would be to contact his former creative partners, who are still with us. I am only aware of Ken Mullen, and Giles Keeble. Mike Hannett and Dave Buchanan may be a source, too.
A memory flash: Geoff Halpin. Geoff did a lot of work with John, in fact I think it was Geoff who did the typography and calligraphy for Banks’ and Evian respectively. http://www.geoffhalpindesign.com/
Thanks Nick, keep ’em coming. D.
I hope I don’t offend the photographer….
Anyhow, a couple of things. The Muscular Dystrophy poster. I had seen it and it had impressed me but I thought the photo was a bit ordinary (come on, I was a just left art school got my first job totally fish out of water junior know nothing), and I told John that.
He gave me a very studied look for a minute.
“I asked Tony Snowden to shoot that, you know why?” asks John.
“Er… nope” simple me responded.
“Cos he’s a lord, Nick” said John.
“You mean LORD Snowden?????” I had heard of the photographer but not as a casual Tony. I knew his byline having pored over many a back issue of Vogue and Tatler when I was trying to teach myself about style in the Manchester Poly library.
“Yeah. That’s the fella”.
“Cos it’s a charity, and Tony hangs out with all the high ups and big nobs, and for them, bunging a cheque for ten grand at a charity is nuffink. Joe Bloggs photographer down the high street doesn’t do that now does he?”
“Ere” continued John, “You had lunch yet? Come along with me I need to go the bank first, and we’ll get something on the way back”.
So John and I strolled out of Floral Street, and John asks me where I have my bank account, it was the Nat West on the corner of Long Acre I said.
We continued down to The Strand.
To John’s bank.
Which was Coutt’s.
I kind of lurked on Coutt’s marble whilst John sat at an antique table in the distance and chatted with a smiling banker.
“This is London Nick. It’s all about money. Do you realise that you probably make almost much as your bank manager? And he’s probably forty odd, with kids”.
I absorbed this, it hadn’t occurred to me before.
“And I make a fair bit more than you Nicky boy (big grin at me from John when he said this) so I bank there. You’ve got be introduced of course. It might happen for you”.
We had a pot whelks each for lunch, at Charing Cross Circus.
Thanks Nick, love that. D.
Found it. And have to put this in context.
This stood out to me from all the telly ad reels I watched in my first month at TBWA. John asked me what feelings it evoked. I said that it was warm, homely, human, friendly, kind, all about the value of home and family.
“Well Chris wrote that. And you just described him didntcha?”
John went to explain that writing for film (something he never did much of), really displayed the creator’s personality. Never learned that in college.
I have stuff and mems from my old mate .. will look out and post
Hey Larry, that would be amazing. Best, D.
The photo was posted already but this is my clean copy: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10153226152102718&set=a.471493507717.283531.581897717&type=1&theater
Weirdly, somebody showed me your Kia Ora ad this morning. How strange?
Oh, man. It was done before you were born!!!
I wish Oscar. D.
I was privileged to be his creative director during his last year, at Leo Burnett. To the very end he was passionate about the craft and searching for great ideas in the most unlikely places. (There were quite a few unlikely places to choose from at LB.) It was he who helped to create some great press ads for McDonald’s (and helped McD become Campaign’s Advertiser of the Year) and went so far as to get an entire McDonald’s typeface designed and patented. It beats me why they don’t use it now.
In my local cafe in holland.. John my close mate.. Will go to my basement studo to find some works. Never a day I don’t think of the fucker.
I’ve heard of Johnny Art as I called him – I being Dave Doodah to him when I worked with him at TBWA on Banks and Volvo among other bits and pieces. I also worked with Nick George – Hi Nick! – before he shaved his head in an avant garde move that inspired the hipsters of the noughties to grow beards in protest. Last time I saw John was at the leaving party of Kiki Kendrick who was quitting WMGO to become an actor. He looked very ill but as ever his final words of advice to me were, ‘Don’t let the bastards grind you down’.
I still miss him.
My Godfather. A very talented man. Photographed here with my father another very talented man, who was his best mate. My father Larry Franklin illustrated much of the work above. I’m so proud of them both and all the fantastic work they created.
This article has almost reduced me to tears.
I had the greatest privilege of not only working with John at WCRS, but also to count him as a friend.
He did the greatest honour bestowed on me in my career in advertising, of asking my Creative Services Director of the time, Jim Sullivan, if I could work on all of his accounts, as I was the only one to ‘understand him’. I’m not sure that was strictly true, as we had a great team of Traffic Managers back then.
His day was unlike everyone else’s.
Keeping to a deadline was almost impossible, working with him. He’d stroll in at around 10.30 in the morning, but still be in the agency at 8 at night, asking for extra little tweaks from the studio guys and me constantly in attendance, worrying about how much of the art-working budget I had left! (We dubbed him affectionately as Johnny Knightmare).
He had no interest in how much time and money was being spent and looking back now, quite rightly. His work is a testament to his vision.
The Qantas ads were all metal set, with no paragraphs. The paste up artist would make a paper master and cut each line and sometimes each word, often asking Giles to come up with an extra few pertinent words to fill the void!
I can recall each artwork (all broadsheet size) costing around £1000 and that was in the mid 80’s! I worked on Duckhams, McVities, Sharwood’s and Qantas with John and I loved every second of being in his company – both in the agency and in the pub.
I visited him a few times in hospital and although he was in great discomfort, he’d lost none of his sense of humour.
One of the greats!
Thanks for sharing this engaging piece about John Knight, Dave. I never met him but would hear several stories about him from the Lovely Ken Mullen back in the day. Ken would often break into John knight parlance and quote him verbatim. Needless to say the quotes are far too coarse to print here. Very funny nonetheless. On another note, I wonder if Vince Squibb was the same Vince who was a year above me at Maidstone College of Art back in 1979.
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