Cold War paranoia

The poster Don’t Brag About Your Job was displayed in government and military offices dealing with sensitive material in the early 1960s. It is a strange cousin of the public health campaigns produced by the Central Office of Information, the government’s communications agency after the Second World War. Using a genial cartoon style like that which encouraged children to cross the road with care or smokers to give up, this breezy design alluded to a period of deep anxiety when the Cold War seemed to be getting hotter by the day.

“Don’t brag about your job” poster
The designers, Reginald Mount and Eileen Evans, had tuned their skills during the Second World War with witty, economical images that delivered government messages without preaching or alarming their viewers. As their colleague Abram Games put it: “maximum impact with minimum means“. Don’t Brag About Your Job reminded employees of the interest that Britain’s enemies might have in this information. While not explicitly anti-communist, it captures the fear of infiltration and espionage that fuelled Cold War paranoia.
The poster dates from a period punctuated by notorious cases of espionage. In early 1963 British spy Kim Philby – one of the ‘Cambridge Five’ – defected to the Soviet Union. Within weeks, the Profumo Affair exploded when the British secretary of state for war was linked to a naval attache in the Soviet embassy through their shared attraction to Christine Keeler. The image of the spy infiltrated British popular culture, as Ian Fleming and Len Deighton’s novels testify. Mount and Evans’s charactet was, however. no James Bond: he was the office show off, no doubt a far more commonplace character.