Tribute to Harry Rogers: legendary Qantas poster designer

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Koala poster from Harry Rogers’ animated animal series of the 1960s 95/277/4 Collection: Powerhouse Museum

Sadly, the Powerhouse Museum farewelled two more supporters this year – poster artist Harry Rogers (b. 20 November 1929 – d.19 May 2012) and his wife Valmai (Val) Rogers, who died on 23 November 2012. Harry and Val were married for almost 60 years. Both were artists. They met while studying at East Sydney Technical College in Darlinghurst (now the National Art School), married in 1953, then moved temporarily to California where Harry studied Animation as part of a Summer Theatre Arts and TV Production course at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). This love of animation is reflected in his poster designs like the one above.

Harry worked for a time with Jack Douglas Productions, television documentary producers before returning to Australia in 1956 to start a family and continue working as a freelance poster artist, graphic designer, art director and typographer. Val and Harry’s support for the Museum came not only through their donation of numerous Harry Rogers-designed Qantas posters, but also through their passionate involvement with the Sydney Space Association and Science Fiction Conventions where they met and became close friends with Powerhouse Museum Space curator (and science fiction buff) Kerrie Dougherty.

As a freelance designer, Rogers enjoyed a long and productive association with Qantas, designing the Qantas logo-font in the mid-1960s and devised many different poster series from the 1950s through to the 1970s which promoted Qantas as Australia’s premier international carrier. He created a different ‘look’ for each series by devising different techniques – cut paper and collage, geometric shapes, heroic animated animal portraits, lively watercolour illustrations, and the unusual oil painting on glass technique used on the 1970s series which includes the Opera House poster illustrated below.

 2007/142/7 Advertising poster, airline, 'Australia', colour lithograph, designed by Harry Rogers for Qantas, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1970-1980

Qantas Australia poster designed by Harry Rogers around 1973 2007/142/7. Collection: Powerhouse Museum.

Qantas remained Rogers’ main client for more than 3 decades from the early 1950s through to 1985 for whom he not only produced posters, but also art directed the Qantas ‘Airways’ in-flight magazine and Qantas staff magazine (1976-1984), designed safety brochures and oversaw the entire refurbishment of the Qantas ‘look’ from 1970 to 1984. This total rebranding included the Qantas ‘Cyclone’ typeface and Qantas livery, the ‘Captain Cook Lounge’ upstairs cocktail-bars in Qantas’ earlier Boeing 747s that were later removed to make way for First Class passenger seating. His Qantas legacy lives on. The Lunn Dyer Qantas rebrand pays homage to Harry’s mid-1960s logo font and a range of Harry’s most iconic Qantas posters were recently re-released as Limited Edition signed collectable Giclee prints.

During an interview in 2007, Val Rogers spoke about Harry’s Cyclone font:
Harry designed a font for Qantas called ‘Cyclone’ that was used by Qantas from 1970 through to 1984. It appears on Qantas bags from that period. It was a complete alpha-numeric and symbolic font. Qantas commissioned Letraset to make full-sheets of these as rub-down letters, numbers and symbols which was very handy to use during that time, as it was long before computers were used for graphic design, and as such, it would otherwise have been far too expensive for a full alphabet to be made that could be used in the old typesetting machines. (Interview, Val Rogers, 2007)

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‘Hawaii’ poster designed by Harry Rogers for Qantas, Wakiki Beach with Diamond Head in the background, printed by Posters Pty Ltd, 1958-1960. 95/277/2. Collection: Powerhouse Museum

As a freelancer, Harry also worked for other clients including Avon, Blue Circle Southern Cement, Coca Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, Kimberly-Clarke, Wormald and Bankstown Square shopping centre for whom he designed the animal car park signage system featuring an echidna for Area 6, an opossum for Area 2, a platypus for Area 5, etc. Some of his designs remained in circulation for many years. The Wormald fire extinguisher logo is still in use today, and the Blue Circle Southern Cement logo of the 1970s has only recently been changed. Before he passed away, Harry recalled coining the term ‘Socceroos’ after he created the ‘Kickaburra’ mascot for a massive marketing project for Coca-Cola’s sponsorship of the early 1980s FIFA World Cup. Apparently Harry suggested it to a news reporter, and they ran with it.

Speaking at his father’s funeral service in Gosford in June, Tony Rogers summed up his personal impression of his father.
“Harry was full of vitality. He was, creative, innovative, inventive, good with words, quick-witted, humorous, friendly, helpful, strong, supportive, non-judgemental, open-minded, unconditionally loving, gentle and kind.” These too are my memories of Harry from working with him and Val as we documented the posters they donated to the Powerhouse Museum collection. Harry and Val Rogers are survived by two children, daughter Lisa Gayle (b.1961) and son Anthony Scott (b.1965). Our sympathies go out to them for Christmas and the year ahead.

Post by Anne-Marie Van de Ven, Curator

2 thoughts on “Tribute to Harry Rogers: legendary Qantas poster designer

  1. Tony Rogers

    Dear Anne-Marie,

    Thank you so much for this lovely tribute to my father Harry, and my mother Val; as well as your kind words and thoughts for my sister and I.

    Best wishes to you too, for a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,
    Tony.

  2. Robert Peirce

    I have an original qantas Hawaii poster that has been hanging in the study of my parents house for over 50 years could you tell me if it is worth keeping, kind regards Robert Peirce

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