Dorrit Dekk (1917-2014) was probably the most successful female poster designer working in Britain during the 1950s and 60s. Known as ‘The Travel Queen’, her joyful images for Air France, the Orient Line, P&O and the Post Office earned her a worldwide following. Yet surprisingly, given London Transport’s reputation as a patron of outstanding design, she produced only one poster for the Underground, We Londoners (1961), which can be seen in the Museum’s current Poster Girls exhibition.
The commission was the idea of Harold Hutchison, London Transport’s Publicity Officer, who wanted a poster showing various London ‘types’ wearing distinctive, or ceremonial, dress. His suggestions included well-known figures, like Chelsea Pensioners and market porters, alongside more obscure ‘occupations’, such as a Royal Mace Bearer and a Swan Upper. Quite what the Czech born Dekk made of these suggestions is not recorded, but she set about the task in May 1960. The final design, for which she was paid 120 guineas, was published in June the following year. Dekk was evidently very pleased with the result, telling Hutchison that the poster “looks quite gay and just right for the foreign invasion of tourists”. She had the design reprinted as her personal Christmas card, while London Transport reissued it under licence to Cunard and even as a headscarf pattern in 1969.
To find out more about the women who designed posters for the Underground in the 1960s and throughout the last century, visit our Poster Girls exhibition during our ‘Swinging Sixties’ Friday Late, which takes place this Friday evening 18 May. As well as the exhibition, you can enjoy curated lectures, tours, workshops and there will be bars and 60s sounds played by the Museum’s resident DJ – The Museum of Vinyl.
David Bownes is co-curator of Poster Girls and director of Twentieth Century Posters www.twentiethcenturyposters.com