June Fraser obituary

Other lives: Designer whose interests spanned the spectrum from graphics to product design and architecture

My mother, June Fraser, who has died aged 88, was a pioneering graphic designer. She began her career in the 1950s at Design Research Unit, a multidisciplinary London practice, where her prolific output included visual identities for Bata shoes and British Sugar, a logotype and packaging for Wedgwood, a logo for Sadler’s Wells theatre, and packaging for the Royal Mint.

Later, in 1980, she became head of graphics at John Lewis Partnership. Though she stayed there for only four years it was an incredibly prolific period, during which she was responsible for the packaging of a huge range of the partnership’s own-brand goods under the Jonelle name. A challenge she particularly enjoyed was the redesign of wine labels for Waitrose.

In 1984 she was recruited by the Design Council of Great Britain to head its industrial design division. Her responsibilities included selecting entries for the register of designers recommended to industry, awarding the black and white Design Council label to the best examples of British design on the high street, and the design and administration of exhibitions at the council’s Haymarket HQ and on tour. She was also in charge of the Design Council’s visual identity and editor in chief of its magazine, Design.

The eldest of three daughters of Myrtle (nee Ward) and Donald Fraser, June was born in Assam, India, where her father was an engineer on a tea plantation. When he took a series of overseas postings with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in the 1930s, it was decided that June should go as a boarder to Talbot Heath school in Bournemouth; she did not see her parents or younger sister, Sally, again until their return to Britain after the second world war.

My mother used to say that she was born with a pencil in her hand. With little access to materials, paper in particular during wartime, she would draw on anything she could get her hands on, including margins and endpapers of her story books. After leaving Talbot Heath, she enrolled at Medway School of Art in Kent, then transferred to Beckenham School of Art, which offered design as part of its curriculum. After graduating in the summer of 1954 she travelled to the Milan Triennale design exhibition where she joined the celebrity couple of mid-century design, Robin and Lucienne Day, to help set up the British stand.

A challenge June Fraser particularly enjoyed was designing Waitrose wine labels
A challenge June Fraser particularly enjoyed was designing Waitrose wine labels Photograph: None

In the same year she gained a place at the Royal College of Art in London. Though trained in graphics, her interest spanned the entire design spectrum from product design to architecture, so upon leaving the RCA in 1957 she successfully applied for her first job with Design Research Unit. At DRU she met the interior designer Allen Cull, and they married in 1963.

Among many achievements, June was the first female president of the Chartered Society of Designers (1983), served as a governor for several colleges of art and her old school, and was a director and later chairman (1995-97) of the Sign Design Society. In 1987 she was nominated to be the UK’s representative on the Board of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design.

Energetic, ambitious, practical and hard-working, she continued to volunteer her expertise after retirement in 2001 to Beaminster in Dorset, and had finalised a book design just a few weeks before her death. Her appreciation of good design and aesthetics extended to every area of her life, including her home, her garden and her wardrobe.

Allen died in 2017. June is survived by me and by two grandchildren, Xander and Isabel, and by her sisters, Sally and Joanna.

Zoe Cull

The GuardianTramp

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