Writing under the pen name of Fougasse, Cyril Kenneth Bird was one of the most popular cartoonists and illustrators of the first half of the twentieth century and arguably the best-known and loved creator of British poster art. The images and captions to his eight World War II propaganda posters 'Careless Talk Costs Lives', which were part of the anti-rumour/gossip campaign orchestrated by the Ministry of Information, are remembered fondly today by millions who experienced life on the Home Front. Other humorous wartime Fougasse designs encouraged the country to be more efficient and productive; to save energy, paper and time. One of his Fuel Economy labels depicts Hitler and Emperor Hirohito jumping for joy captioned 'Switched-on switches & turned on taps Make happy Huns & joyful Japs'. The 'Careless Talk...' campaign had a big influence on American, Canadian and Australian anti-gossip posters. American versions included the more hard-hitting 'A Careless Word...A Needless Loss', and 'A Careless Word...Another Cross'. Fougasse was also popular in France, and his 'Careless Talk' designs were published in the 14 Feb 1940 issue of Paris-Soir.
During his lifetime Fougasse's work was familiar to the nation through his cartoons for Punch magazine, public information posters and prolific book illustrations. He created designs for London Underground; on public health and road safety, the majority of which still have a resonance and relevance today. Fougasse also wrote several short publications explaining his design approach, providing great insight into his work. He had strong views about propaganda posters that were articulated in his publication, A School of Purpose (1946). Author James Taylor draws on all this material to analyse why the messages in Fougasse's illustrations were so direct and memorable, and why he chose humour over horror to get his message across. The book is divided into several chapters, covering not just Fougasse's wartime work and comparable posters by other war artists, but his influence on the anti-gossip campaigns abroad, his advertising and illustration work and other public information posters.