Irene Hawkes was born in 1886 in Chelmsford, and studied at Chelmsford School of Art. In the 1920s and 1930s, she worked as a commercial designer and illustrator, and between 1923 and 1935 produced 22 posters and 13 panel posters for London Transport. She also taught drawing and design at the Sir John Cass Technical Institute, Jewry Street, London (now incorporated in London Metropolitan University) between 1927 and 1935.