NotesArthur 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.