Dick Negus: Designer celebrated for his work with British Airways and other national institutions

The graphic designer Dick Negus became prominent during the 1960s and 1970s, following the Festival of Britain of 1951, which he called the most significant design influence of his life.

First at Negus and Sharland, and then at Negus and Negus, he did work for some of the best-known institutions in Britain including the Royal Opera House, the National Theatre, and British Airways. The latter may be his lasting legacy. It resulted from a competition, lasted nearly a decade and was to lead to further airline identifications, including Pakistan International and Emirates. The scale and range of the project, covering all aspects of the airline's appearance, tested the capacity of the office; Negus compared its implementation to having a tiger by its tail. But the style he developed, and particularly the use of part of the Union flag on the tailfin, set a precedent for the airline which survived subsequent re-designs and remains in place today.

Dick Negus was born in London in 1927. His mother and father, from Quendon in Essex, arrived in London shortly after the Great War; both worked at the Turf Club in Piccadilly, where his father was a clerk in the Secretary's office, his mother a maid. Dick commented that "both families regarded these jobs as excellent".

At Battersea Grammar School, he showed interest in drawing and painting. After his mother died during the Second World War, his father remarried, to the daughter of someone also on the Turf Club staff, but Dick did not care for his stepmother and was keen to leave home. He left school at before his 16th birthday in 1943 and joined the Royal Marines after failing to get into the merchant navy or the submarine service. He was invalided out in the winter of 1945.

He went on to Camberwell School of Art, where he was taught by John Minton (for illustration), Victor Passmore, Lawrence Gowing, and William Coldstream (life drawing and painting), as well as Keith Vaughn – who, with Passmore, remained favourites of his. At this time he also met Philip Sharland, who was to become his business partner, and Pamela, whom he married in 1949.

The two-year course did little to prepare students for commercial realities, but his portfolio eventually landed him a job as an exhibition designer on the 1951 Festival of Britain staff. With Sharland, he worked on the fisheries section (with scripts by Laurie Lee) and the aircraft carrier Campania. Under Charles Hasler he helped to create the Festival alphabet used for the lettering on the Royal Festival Hall, where it can still be seen today.

The design practice of Negus and Sharland was established in 1951, but work was scarce; it consisted mostly of illustrations for murals, posters and magazines, much of it commissioned by advertising agencies. Over the next two decades this developed into larger-scale projects and into new areas including the embryonic "house style" field now known as corporate identification. During the same period, Negus lectured at the Central School of Art and Hornsey College of Art, and served as an external adviser at polytechnics in Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester. He and Pam, with their growing family, moved into a house in Surrey which he designed himself, down to the door handles, before returning to London some 15 years later.

By the early 1970s the office was snapping at the heels of the larger, more established design groups in the competition for big identification contracts. The partnership became known as Negus and Negus when Pam Negus joined, replacing Sharland. Despite acquiring a number of large and well-known organisations as clients, including, in one year, John Laing, Godfrey Davis, Lloyds Bank and the City of Westminster, Dick scaled back the number of staff from 20 to seven to reduce the administrative burden. He later allowed it to increase to 12, which remained its maximum even after he won the British Airways contract, then the biggest identification job in Europe.

After the novelty of flying first-class wore off, Negus claimed to hate air travel, and he was constantly up against problems with unions, board-level interference and staff antagonism. But he developed a skill in dealing with people, up to and including board members. Later, he was said to have been awarded one important contract because he "looked mean and tough". Mean he certainly was not, though he could act tough. He had no illusions about the ephemeral nature of much design work, particularly graphics, but he believed strongly that design was more than merely cosmetic.

The standing and reputation of Negus & Negus was at its highest in the 1980s when design as a whole seemed finally to have "arrived",particularly after it was publiclyendorsed by Mrs Thatcher; Negus was among those invited to attend aseminar on the subject at 10 Downing Street. Britain was the theme of aninternational design conference at Aspen, Colorado for which he provided graphics. His client list broadened during this period to include a number of national organisations such asEnglish Heritage, Royal Armouries, the Tower of London, National Maritime Museum (for whom he wrote a booklet on the display of text in museums), the National Theatre and the Science Museum.

The flow of commercial clients continued, among them the John Lewis Partnership, Waterford/Wedgwood and Vickers on its merger with Rolls-Royce Motors. He provided the graphics for the SDP, to which he was personally, as well as professionally, committed and was greatly saddened by its failure.

Dick and Pam were warm and generous hosts. Parties, often in fancy dress, occurred frequently, both at home and in the office (which he saw as an extension of his family). And at monthly lunches a variety of carefully chosen guests were invited to discuss design-linked subjects in the conservatory of his Islington house.

Dick also found time for professional bodies: he was President of the Chartered Society of Designers from 1977-78, belonged to the Society of Typographic Designers, and the Design Council. He was a governor of his old college at Camberwell and of the Chelsea School of Art, and a member of the Court at the Royal College of Art. Among other committees, he served for 25 years on the Post Office's Stamps Advisory Committee.

After his formal retirement, Dick returned to his first interest, painting, and took up pottery. He devoted more time to sailing, a favourite pastime since youth. He remained active, despite health problems over the past two years, until shortly before his death on Good Friday.

Richard Charles Negus, designer: born London 29 August 1927; married 1949 Pamela Wheatcroft-Hancock (died 2000; two sons, one daughter), 2011 Aurea Whittingham; died London 22 April 2011.

News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Travel
travel
News
Robyn Lawley
people
News
people
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
people
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine