Reaching the people


Editorial note (EK). 'Reaching the people' is the text of a capabilities booklet produced by Buffalo Books Ltd., a constituent of the Adprint Group. The text was probably written in 1956.

Buffalo Books was set up in the early 1950s to pursue public communications projects and consultation throughout the developing world. In practice its area of activity was confined to Britain's soon-to-be independent West African colonies. The company was a partnership of complementary expertise: Adprint's innovative book packaging capabilities; the Isotype Institute's well-established and 'internationally recognised system of conveying information'; and Purnell and Sons' quality colour printing. While Wolfgang Foges was named as company director, the day-to-day operations of Buffalo Books were mainly in the hands of the energetic and capable Isabel Frame-Smith.

The booklet 'Reaching the people' had several intended functions: to describe the knowledge, expertise and experience Buffalo Books could offer its clients; to illustrate the projects it had already completed; and, importantly, to position its services in a larger context of spreading post-war democracy, social provision and development, about which governments needed to inform their citizens and win support. The projects shown were indeed wholly West African, and principally Nigerian, the result of a particularly productive relationship forged with Nigeria's Western Regional Government.

Although the booklet's range and presentation were impressive and hopeful, 'Reaching the people' seems not to have opened up many new commercial opportunities in the field it targeted. The Isotype Institute's contributions waned, and after the completion of comparatively fewer projects in 1957-8, its work under the Buffalo Books banner came to an end.

(Booklet typescript: I.C. 3.2/178)

Reaching the people
Buffalo Books Ltd

A specialised advisory and technical service for the designing and production of printed and pictorial matter to the requirements of oversea[s] Government Departments, Public Relations Officers, Local Authorities, Public Corporations, Trade Commissioners, Tourist Developments Agencies, Literature Bureaux, Political Organisations, Industrial and Commercial Enterprises, etc.

Reaching the people

This has been called the Age of the Common Man. It is certainly the age in which, all over the world, the common man is becoming concerned as never before with the public responsibilities extending far beyond the traditional framework of family, village or tribe. New democracies are developing, in which men and women have votes, and their votes not only affect the destinies of their own peoples but in turn affect the history of the world, for the interdependence of all the countries and communities of the world becomes daily more apparent and inescapable.

Everywhere men and women see opening before them new opportunities and possibilities of better and fuller life for themselves and for their children. They demand the means to seize these opportunities and to realise these possibilities.

To meet the challenge, new political and social organisations are being evolved, new forms of relationship are being established between State and State, between government and people, between public authority and private enterprise, between management and labour.

None of this great popular movement can go forward successfully, none of the organisations can function, none of the relationships can be developed without means of communication.

Communications is the essential tool of progress. Recognising this, governments, public authorities, political leaders and business enterprises are going to immense trouble to discover the most effective and practical means of spreading information amongst the people. It is a new problem, for which little guidance can be found in the past experience of Western countries. Much has been learned in the past few years, but much has still to be learned. It is not even a single problem, for every locality and community has its own special conditions calling for its own special approach, and even in one country the conditions vary greatly from place to place and from time to time.

A technical service

It is for the authorities concerned to decide what they wish to communicate and to choose the content of the communication and the general method of approach. These directions have then to be transformed into the actual message which will be received by the public. In the final result, this means something on paper - a poster, a leaflet, a booklet, a periodical, or a book. The design and production of these things in order that they may secure the maximum effectiveness for their purpose is a technical matter. We - Buffalo Books Limited - believe that our resources and experience enable us to offer an advisory and executive service of exceptional value in this field.

What we are

Buffalo Books Limited is the name of a British firm which is closely linked with the printing house of Purnell and Sons Ltd., with the Adprint Group of companies which specialises in the production of illustrated publications of all kinds, especially books in colour, and with the Isotype Institute Ltd., which has worked out an internationally recognised system of conveying information by the use of easily understood picture symbols.

We are therefore, in a position to draw upon an exceptionally wide range of expert technical knowledge and achievement which is of the utmost relevance to the problem of communication of information or ideas in countries where literacy is not universal or is of recent acquisition.

Our experience

We have been working on this matter, with special reference in the first place to West Africa, since 1952. After much preliminary study and consultation with the West African Governments, we made a practical start in 1954 by issuing, as an experiment, a popular illustrated magazine in colour, named "Forward". This was largely the work of African writers and artists. It was well received by the public, and editions in several local languages were issued by the Gold Coast Vernacular Literature Bureau. The experiment proved, however, that under the conditions of marketing and distribution obtaining at the time, the regular issue of such a periodical, however well suited to its purpose, was not at the moment an economic possibility.

However, valuable experience was gained, and in the light of this we concentrated upon the designing and production of literature required by Governments, public bodies and commercial firms for local distribution. Amongst the productions for which we have been responsible are booklets and posters on electoral machinery for the Governments of the Western Region of Nigeria and of Sierra Leone; a 32-page illustrated book on the Volta River Project for the Government of the Gold Coast; a considerable number of illustrated booklets and posters on government economics, public health, agriculture, education etc. for the Western Region of Nigeria; election addresses, almanacs and badges for the Action Group; agricultural leaflets for Plant Protection Ltd.; etc. etc. In many of these productions we have worked in close cooperation with the Isotype Institute Ltd. During 1954 and 1955 the Director of the Institute spent several months in West Africa to study the background and visual experience of the people and to work out the best method of presenting facts to them in a simple and understandable way. The knowledge so gained has been integrated with the experience available to the Institute of work in such widely different fields as India, Mexico, the United Kingdom (where the Institute was employed by the Government to co-operate in the popular exposition of the National Insurance Scheme) and the United States.

In the Western Region of Nigeria, Buffalo Books Limited have entered into a special arrangement with the Government under which they have undertaken, as Managing Agent, the planning, installation and running of the Government Printing Corporation's factory at Ibadan for the manufacture of school exercise books.

What we can do

We have, therefore, at our command a substantial body of practical experience, allied to technical resources of the highest order, which we are able to place at the disposal of State and local authorities, political parties, business firms and others who are faced with this problem of communications. Our association with Purnell and Sons enables us to undertake high quality printing in vernacular as well as Roman types. Our access to the Isotype Institute Ltd. and to the Adprint organisation enables us to advise upon, to design and to produce literature and visual material of every kind: posters, books, leaflets and indeed anything whatsoever that goes on paper, without or with illustrations, in full colour, two or three colours or black and white, with photographs, original drawings, diagrams or symbolic treatment as may be required. It is a matter of pride with us that orders should be fulfilled promptly, and above all accurately, with particular care that the mode of presentation is adjusted to the circumstances of the public to which the material is addressed.

While our experience hitherto has been mostly gained in West Africa, we believe that the lessons we have learned can be applied, with suitable adaptation, to other countries where, though conditions may be very different, similar basic problems arise. We are confident that the service which we offer is one of practical value in meeting a real and growing need.

Our work is centred in London, because it is here that we have access to the technical and artistic resources which make that service possible. We shall always be pleased, however, to arrange on reasonable terms for representatives to visit any country so as to discuss local problems on the spot and to ensure that the service is made fully effective.


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