AN OXFORD company that has quietly supported the education of people across the globe is celebrating a special anniversary.

Oxford Designers and Illustrators began life in 1968 providing technical drawings for scientific journals and publishers like Oxford University Press and Pearson Education.

Over the years the company - which has employed the talents of hundreds of illustrators in the city - has had to adapt its way through a multitude of technological advances.

As staff mark the firm’s 50th birthday, three generations of leadership at the company, now based in Kidlington, spoke to the Oxford Mail: founding member John Webb, former managing director Peter Lawrence and current director Roger Noel.

All three said the company’s focus on education and quality had helped it last half a century.

Mr Lawrence, who stepped down from his role in 2013, said: “When I left I made a speech and I remember saying we should be very proud of the fact we’ve contributed to the education of the world.

“Generations of children and adults learned things through us. It’s nor designing pictures of fish fingers or tins of baked beans.

“It’s a worthwhile thing to be doing and that’s something I’ve thought hundreds of times in my work.”

Mr Webb, who co-founded the business and helped it achieve sustaining success, added: “Doesn’t that make working life worthwhile?”

When it first opened in 1968 the business was called Oxford Illustrators.

The company capitalised on a move by companies like Blackwells to get rid of their in-house drawing offices.

Over time and following multiple requests to do type setting or designs for a cover, Mr Webb formed design specialist Oxprint. The sister companies worked together to deliver works from scratch - transforming manuscripts into illustrated books.

Mr Webb, who said he was privileged to work with an array of Oxford’s most talented artist, said he was proud of the company’s ability to weather difficult economic periods while retaining a large number of staff.

He said: “I’m really thrilled that the business has lasted as long as it has.

“We managed to get through a couple of depressions without losing anybody.

“A great sense of pride for me came during our Christmas parties. There would be 120 to 130 people with their wives and friends and you’d think: ‘All these people are relying on those salaries for their mortgages and things.”

It was Mr Lawrence who made the decision to bring the two companies together and form Oxford Designers and Illustrators.

The company, now employee-owned and headed by Mr Noel, continues to produce work for major publishers at home and overseas. Recently, it has produced a children’s book sold at the John Radcliffe Hospital and worked with the Ashmolean Museum and the Bodleian Library.