The Powerhouse Museum aims specifically to represent outstanding and innovative Australian design, and collections such as the Arthur Leydin design archive provide display objects as well as irretrievable source documents relating to 20th century Australian visual communication and graphic design history.
Arthur Leydin had a long history with the design industry of Australia and was one of Australia's most influential graphic designers from the mid 60s through to the 80s. An early member of the Australian Commercial and Industrial Artist's Association (ACIAA), and later Federal President and Fellow, he was involved in publishing the ACIAA's first records of Australian Advertising Art and Design in the early 1960s. Leydin also practiced and taught in the United States of America (eg assistant to Will Burtin in New York during the 1950s) and Canada over several years. In 1998 he was named a design legend by Advertising News in their 75th anniversary edition and in 2000 he was inducted into the AGDA Hall of Fame.
As well as representing the designs and activities of Australian designer Arthur Leydin, this archive, like other design archives in the collection of the Powerhouse Museum, includes examples and/or references to the work of other Australian design associations, events and designers, in this instance to Les Mason, Alex Stitt, Richard Haughton James, Grant and Mary Featherston, and others.
Anne-Marie Van de Ven, Curator 2002.
Arthur Leydin (20 December 1932 - 7 February 2010)
Leydin has a long association with the graphic design industry in Australia. He was an influential Australian graphic designer from the mid 60s through to the 80s. An early member of the Australian Commercial and Industrial Artist's Association (ACIAA) and later Federal President and Fellow, he was involved in publishing the ACIAA's first records of Australian Advertising Art and Design in the early 1960s. Leydin also practiced and taught in the United States of America (eg assistant to Will Burton in New York during the 1950s) and Canada over several years. He was named a design legend by Advertising News in their 75th anniversary edition (1998) and in 2000 he was inducted into the AGDA Hall of Fame.
Leydin's practice covers graphic design, corporate identity, packaging, technical literature, books and publications, architectural signage, exhibition, poster, product, stamp and other graphic design. Clients include Comalco Limited, National Bank, Philip Morris Ltd, Nathan & Wyeth, Wiggen Teape Aust Pty Ltd, Qantas airways Ltd, Victorian Employers Federation, Spicer-Cowan, Australian Tourist Commission, Drug Houses of Australia Pty Ltd, Rocke Tompsitt & Company Ltd, Metal Manufacturers Ltd, Ford Motor Company Ltd, USA, King Broadcasting USA, Wortz Company USA, and Simoniz Corporation USA.
Leydin had little formal training in design. He started work when he was fifteen working as a junior tracer with the Victorian Government Railways drawing rail line diagrams and plans.
Between 1947 and 1948 he spent a half-day a week studying with Alan Warren at RMIT where he was influenced by contemporary American and European design and read about the Bauhaus, Ulm Design School, Paul Rand and others.
Leydin joined CSIRO Agricultural Division in 1949, a commercial printer in 1950, and Holeproof Hosiery in 1951. During 1951 he also designed a book jacket for Dr Andrew Fabyni of Cheshire Publishing.
In 1955, Leydin joined the Briggs and James advertising agency (established 1952)where he met English born designer Richard Haughton (Jimmy) James. There he undertook packaging design. (The Powerhouse Museum, Sydney has the Richard Haughton James design archive). During 1956, Leydin also studied cast drawing at the National Gallery Art School with William Dargie for two nights a week. The Swann Insurance logo of the 1950s was one of the first symbols he designed. It, and his new corporate identity for Sellotape, became two of his most successful designs.
Leydin left Briggs and James in 1956, and under the encouragement of Richard Haughton 'Jimmy' James travelled to the Sixth International Design Conference in Aspin, Colorado, which was hosted by the Society of Typographical Artists. There he met Herbert Bayer, FHK Henrion, Will Burtin and other prominent international designers. He went on to work as an assistant to Will Burton in New York until his visa ran out. He then travelled to Toronto where he worked with TDF Artists Ltd and Borden Johnson Stessel's large design studios.
Leydin returned to Melbourne in 1959 and began freelance work. In 1960 he started Dimensions in St Kilda Road, located near other Melbourne advertising agencies. There he undertook commissions for Qantas, Comalco, OTC, National Bank of Australia and other clients. Around this time he also became involved with the ACIAA and its exhibitions, later becoming Victorian and later National President and Fellow.
Leydin visited Manila in the Philippines where he met and married his wife, who was a staff member in the design office of one of Leydin's American friends. The Australian Department of Immigration wouldn't allow her to enter Australia, so in 1966 Leydin accepted an offer to join Unimark International Inc in Chicago where he became Vice President and Director of Design, undertaking projects including projects for the Ford Motor Company and Phillip Morris.
Permission was granted for Leydin's wife to enter Australia in 1968 so they returned to Australia and Leydin opened a city office in Swanston St, Melbourne. In 1970, John Copeland and Arthur Leydin designed stamps for World Expo. Leydin explained that both the business and Leydin's wife encountered racial problems, which they hadn't experienced in America. Under the stress, Leydin reluctantly closed this Melbourne office in 1971 and moved to Sydney where he accepted a teaching position at Randwick Technical College, remaining there till 1975. Around this time his marriage broke down and his wife returned to a business career in the Philippines.
In 1971 Leydin won a Sebel Design Award (souvenir section) for his Australian animal puzzle. In 1973, he designed Opera House stamps for Australia Post, and he wrote an article about the Opera House which was published in Design Australia, October/November, 1973. He also designed Australia's Olympic Games stamp series of 1976. It was aroudn this time that he became a member of the Australia Post's Stamp Advisory Committee, a postition he held for around 10 years.
In 1975, Leydin ecrued a threeyear contract as foundation principal lecturer and head of design studies at the new Sydney College of Advanced Education, Sydney College of the Arts. In 1977 he secured degree accrediation for visual communication students. In 1978, he was a speaker at the ICOGRADA Conference in Chicago.
In 1980 Leydin returned to freelance practice in Sydney while also opening Gigs, a small jazz club in Darlinghurst for modern jazz musicians like Roger Frampton, Bernie McGann, Dale Barlow and others. He closed this Sydney design office in 1982, and moved to Lismore in northern NSW where he opened a Mexican and vegetarian restaurant, which he sold 12 months later.
He returned to Sydney where he took over the Brewery lease for a period. He then opened a one person design office linked to the Worldmark Corporate Communications International company and undertook numerous branding projects, including GMH, Amcor and Clark Living.
Still passionate about design in 1987, Leydin initiated the first Asia/Pacific design conference which was held in Mildura in 1988. Following on from the success of the first conference, Leydin arranged a second conference in 1989 which was less successful.
Leydin then moved to Brisbane in 1989, bought a church and opened a one-person design office and a coffee lounge in the Hyatt Hotel. After selling this, he designed and opened a coffee shop in Cairns in 1990.
In 1996 he developed an installation titled 'Beautiful one day' for the Niche Gallery of the Cairns Regional Art Gallery which looked at the regional impact of tourism.
Although officially 'retired' since 1997, Leydin continued to occasionally undertake design projects. In October 2002, he and Caroline Morgan of Cirstra Corporate Identity organised Mentoring Masterclass 1, which they hoped would become a regular design event.
When inducting Arthur Leydin into the Spicers/Paperpoint AGDA (Australian Graphic Design Association) Hall of Fame in 2000, Max Robinson wrote: 'Arthur Leydin careered through the graphic design world like a rogue comet. Once you thought you had him firmly in your sights, he was gone again to another distant galaxy, leaving in his wake a trail of sublime work sprinkled over two continents.'
Arthur Leydin (b. 1932) died on Sunday 7 February 2010.
Anne-Marie Van de Ven, Curator, 2010
Reference: Biography prepared largely from curatorial notes made during conversations with the designer while reviewing content in his archive.
Arthur Leydin was born on 20 December 1932 in Melbourne's Newmarket/Flemington district and spent the early years of his life there, not far from the Newmarket cattle yards. Educated by nuns at St Brendan's Catholic school in Flemington, Leydin went on to Christian Brothers, South Melbourne, where his drawing talent led to the offer of a scholarship to train as an artist at Prahran Technical College. His parents, however, had other ideas for their 15 year old son. Through friends, they instead arranged for him to embark on a career with the Victorian Railways, starting off as a junior tracer of railway track diagrams at the Railways' head office in Spencer Street.
By 1948, with a half day a week study leave granted by his boss, Leydin had begun attending classes at Melbourne Technical College (later RMIT), under modern artist, Alan Warren, who had joined the college's art department that year. Warren's teaching emphasised the importance of the picture's structure, balance and proportion and Leydin credits him with shaping his thinking on contemporary American and pioneer European design. European schools of design like Bauhaus and Ulm and the work of American designers Lester Beall, Alvin Lustig and Paul Rand - who was best known for his corporate logos - were among Leydin's early influences.Leydin lasted a year with the Railways before finding work with the CSIRO's Rural Division in East Melbourne. The Rural Division was responsible for producing publications with illustrations of livestock in rural areas. Leydin was assistant to a former newspaper illustrator named Kelly, who, preferring to illustrate the rural scenes, would often pass on typographic and cover work to Leydin. One such job was the programme cover for Melbourne's first film festival - the department's head, a film buff, had helped found the festival.
Other early commercial art jobs included drawing designs at a printing plant for food packaging (mainly for Arnotts biscuits) and then designing packaging for Holeproof - a job Leydin initiated - which led to his meeting and showing work to the legendary English born designer, Richard Haughton James. Leydin ended up working for the Briggs and James advertising agency in Latrobe Street which was set up by Haughton James and John Briggs in 1952. He also attended night classes in cast and model drawing at the National Gallery of Victoria Art School under the renowned artist William (Bill) Dargie.
In June 1956 Leydin resigned from the agency to attend the Sixth International Design Conference hosted by the Society of Typographic Arts, in Aspen, Colorado. There he saw and met his design heroes - Herbert Bayer, the Austrian born graphic designer, painter, photographer and architect and FHK Henrion, the German born graphic designer responsible for introducing the concept of corporate identity to both Britain and Europe. Design pioneer, Will Burtin, who had fled Nazi Germany with his Jewish wife, was program Chairman of the International Conference.
From Aspen, Leydin headed to New York where Will Burtin offered him an assistant's position in his office of three. Under Burtin's instruction, Leydin would realise Burtin's small scale designs to their final visual size. Leydin, however, was unable to continue his employment in New York due to US immigration laws. Despite Burtin's lobbying on his behalf, Leydin was forced to leave the USA. He moved to Toronto, where he began work as an associate art director for TDF Artists Ltd (principals Russ Taber, Hugh Dulmage and Budd Feheley) art and design studio. By 1958 he was working as an art director with the design firm, Borden Johnson Stessel, again in Toronto, Canada. Here Leydin learnt the technique of pastel rendering.
Leydin returned to Melbourne in 1959, doing freelance work in a private design practice he had set up in a lane off Latrobe Street with illustrator, Wes Walters and illustrator and jazz pianist Verdon Morcom. In 1960 Leydin started 'Dimensions' in St Kilda Road, again with Morcom and Walters, along with illustrator, Bruce Weatherhead and the Polish born photographer, Eric Lang. Lang went on to take a number of photographs of Leydin's design work .
During this period Leydin became involved with ACIAA (the Australian Commercial and Industrial Artists' Association) becoming Victorian and later Federal President and Fellow. With the assistance of the Victorian Employers' Federation he also initiated an international design conference for business people, which was held in Sydney and Melbourne, with the participation of prominent Chicago designers, Richard (Dick) Latham - product design - and Ralph Eckerstorm - packaging graphics.
Leydin married in Manila in 1966 but due to the current immigration laws had trouble getting his wife admitted to Australia. So he took up Ralph Eckerstrom's offer to join Unimark International's Chicago office as its Vice President and Director of Design where he undertook design projects for the Ford Motor Company and Phillip Morris among others.
Returning to Melbourne in 1968 with his wife, Leydin opened an office in Swanston Street, and although his business thrived his wife suffered from racial problems in her business dealings - in an attempt to overcome this situation Leydin closed his Melbourne office in 1971, moving to Sydney. In the same year Leydin was presented with the Sebel Design Award for Souvenir Design for a wooden jigsaw puzzle with a theme of Australian animals, also taking up an offer to teach design on a casual basis at Randwick Technical College, where he remained until 1975. During this time Leydin's marriage broke down, and his wife returned to Asia.
In 1977 Leydin was invited to become foundation principal lecturer at the new College of Advanced Education, Sydney College of the Arts, where he took on a three year contract as principal lecturer and head of the department of visual communications - this also entailed writing course outlines and appointing academic staff - Leydin also secured degree accreditation for visual communication students.
During this time, Leydin was also a member of Australia Post's Government Stamp Advisory Committee, a post he held for around 10 years. The Committee met once a month at Australia Post headquarters in Melbourne to select stamps to be released or to commission artists and designers to create new stamps. Leydin also designed several stamps, most notably stamps marking the opening of the Sydney Opera House in 1973 and in 1976 Australia's Olympic Games series.
In late 1979 Leydin's career went off on a tangent when he opened a jazz club, GIGS, in Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross, featuring musicians like Bernie McGann, Dale Barlow, Roger Frampton and Phil Treloar. The club ran for 6 months and by 1980 Leydin had returned to private practice.
By 1982 Leydin had closed his design office and over the next couple of years returned to the hospitality industry, opening a Mexican vegetarian restaurant in Lismore for a year and then taking out the lease on the Thurless Castle hotel in Cleveland Street, Chippendale, a venture plagued by trouble - in 10 months the hotel was broken into 13 times.
Once again Leydin returned to design, opening a one person office in Sydney's William Street - during this time design programmes were developed for Phillip Morris and Greencorp Magnetics, among others.
In the mid 1980s Leydin joined McCann Erikson in Melbourne and, initiating a design subsidiary called Worldmark, Leydin was appointed director/designer.
In 1987, with funding assistance from the Victorian Ministry for the Arts, Leydin initiated and organised the highly successful 'First Asia Pacific Design Conference' in Mildura, attracting local and international delegates and speakers. The success of a second conference in 1989 was marred by a national airline strike, resulting in transport problems and financial loss.
A move to a one person design office in Brisbane in 1989 was followed in 1991 by the opening of his coffee shop, 'Wharf Street Coffee and Teas', inside the Hilton Hotel in Cairns, for which Leydin designed the décor and signage. Leydin sold up in 1993. In semi-retirement from 1997, he remained in Cairns, undertaking the occasional design project. Arthur Leydin died on 7 February 2010.
[Written using biographical information supplied by Arthur Leydin, material in the Arthur Leydin design archive and advice from Graham Rendoth.]