Inside the Collection

Tribute to Harry Rogers: legendary Qantas poster designer

Qantas Australia koala poster
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.

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

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)

Qantas Hawaii poster
‘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

17 responses to “Tribute to Harry Rogers: legendary Qantas poster designer

  • 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.

  • 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

    • • Hi Robert Peirce, I have no idea what the prices would be these days; original-print copies of these types of posters can go for a lot at auction houses around the world. Also, it depends on the specific series, as some series prints are rarer than others.

  • Definitely worth keeping Robert – especially if it hasn’t faded too much from being on display for so long.

  • It was special to read your tribute Harry Rogers. Recently realized I met Harry as a little boy growing up living in Los Angeles in the early 50s. My father was an auto mechanic and he and Harry developed a friendship, while my dad was working on his car. I believe Harry was attending UCLA at the time. Harry gave me one of his paintings as a present after I naively asked Harry to give me one of his paintings( if he ever had one he didn’t want to keep). Until I “googled” Harry’s name last month, I was unaware that he had painted the Qantas posters. Once I made the connection it became very obvious that his style of painting was evolving and the same.

    I am trying to decide what to do with my painting .Would it be possible for you to send me your email, so I can send you pictures of the painting and the story of how he gave me the painting. I think it shows that Harry Rogers was the kind of person you describe in your tribute.

    • • Hi Robert Branton, that’s exciting to hear about you father and my father’s history in USA. I remember stories from Dad about driving around in a red T-Bird with Mum (I think they were living in Westwood Village). My sister then I were born in the 1960s after they’d come back from living in L.A. for about 3 years. Best wishes to you 😊🙏👍

  • Hi Robert
    Thank you for your comment and for sharing this information. I’ve sent you an email. I look forward to seeing the photographs and hearing more about your encounters with Harry.
    Anne-Marie

  • Hi Anne-Marie,

    This past week, I have been attempting to email you information on my painting several times and ways. I’m concerned the emails are not coming through to the server for the email address you gave me. Could you verify if they have come through. If not is there another email contact address I could send the information to?

    Robert

  • Dear Tony
    I was sorry to hear your father and mother had passed away in 2012.
    I would have loved to have had their opinion on a number of posters left to me by a friend – also called Rogers.
    This was her married name but she also attended East Sydney tech in the 1950’s. We were artist friends.
    A couple of the posters are or look like original silk screen – or paper screen??? no idea about printing.
    Others are copies – obviously from the 1960’s 50’s.
    I would love to know it they are by your father Harry.

    • • Hi Patricia, Wow! I’m guessing that friend could indeed have been Mum 😊 Dad was very prolific with his Qantas work, let alone his various-styled poster between the early 1950s – up to and through the 1970s (and late 1980s for non-poster work). He did two series of the ‘geometric’ style: early to mid 1950s – with a silhouette of the ‘Constellation’ airplane (some of which he did when my parents were both living in L.A. during the 1950s; and the quirkier-looking animals (usually smiling) up to around the mid 1960s. During the 1960s, Dad also did a watercolours series and a collage series (I remember Dad coming home one day when I was teeny, with various materials and various paper-types to make some of them there on weekend). Then he did an oil-paints series in 1970 to tie in with Qantas’ 50th anniversary. Dad also did random one-off posters for Qantas up to and through the 70s.

  • Harry and Val were stables in the fan community and helped so many people – we are still missing them every day. At least I have small pieces of art on the wall to remember them.

  • Does anyone have information about the posters credited to “Rogers-Galbraith? I have some with QANTAS across the top and some of the same image with no wording. I have 4 posters printed on two sheets the first with a Life saver woman (P 24) and Mexican male (P 25). The second sheet has a Beefeater and a Hawaiian girl.
    The posters have been untrimmed so crop marks can be seen.
    If anyone wishes I can send text images.
    How many posters did Harry Rogers do for QANTAS?
    Dietmar

    • • Hi Dietmar, I’m not sure how many Dad did during the Rogers & Gailbraith days (I don’t even know how many Harry did overall; allthough I know he was very prolific. Dad and Mr Gailbraith had very different styles. Dad did two series of the ‘geometric’ style: early to mid 1950s – with a silhouette of the ‘Constellation’ airplane (some of which he did when my parents were both living in L.A. during the 1950s; and the quirkier-looking animals (usually smiling) up to around the mid 1960s. During the 1960s, Dad also did a watercolours series and a collage series (I remember Dad coming home one day when I was teeny, with various materials and various paper-types to make some of them there on weekend). Then he did an oil-paints series in 1970 to tie in with Qantas’ 50th anniversary. Dad also did random one-off posters for Qantas up to and through the 70s.

  • I have a poster that is signed Harry Rogers. I looked him up before but did not really pay attention to the comments after I my search.
    The painting came with the house when we bought it.
    The previous owner of our house used to work for American Airlines and I am wondering if maybe this painting was painted by your father.

    • • Hi Divina, I don’t know the story about the poster or the house or the American Airlines home owner (is the home in USA or Australia?). Dad wouldn’t have signed anyone elses work, so I’m assuming it must have been one of Dad’s Qantas artworks. May the house owner was a fan of Dad’s art, and got it directly – via a mutual friend – or perhaps he bought it from one of those vintage original-poster shop from around the world.

  • Hi Dietmar
    Harry did many posters for Qantas – some signed Rogers-Gailbraith. There were small medium and large posters produced for various purposes. The ones you hold sound very much like they are by Harry. Regards Anne-Marie Van de Ven

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