Reputations: Stuart Geddes
‘I am interested in exploring different archetypes of books … I like to create friction between design conventions and juxtapose them to make something new.’
Stuart Geddes (b. 1975 in Sydney) has amassed an admirable body of work while quietly establishing himself as the go-to guy for niche Australian publishing, with his purposefully maverick-professional approach. He studied graphic design at RMIT University, where he was taught by New Zealander Lisa Grocott. In 1998, Grocott invited Geddes and three others to start Studio Anybody, which endeavoured to explore an alternative model of practice within Australian graphic design.
One of his most extraordinary designs is the 1616-page, leather-bound Mongrel Rapture, printed by a Chinese Bible printer, that covers the work and thinking of Australian architects and provocateurs Ashton Raggatt McDougall (ARM), whose buildings include Storey Hall and the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne and the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. In its sheer monumentality, it is tempting to compare Mongrel Rapture (and Geddes’ role in it) to such examples of graphic authorship as Bruce Mau’s 1344-page orchestration of Rem Koolhaas’s S,M,L,XL, and Irma Boom’s five-year commission for Dutch conglomerate SHV. Geddes certainly sees Mongrel Rapture as a turning point in his own practice. Published in the year of his fortieth birthday, it crystallised much of how he has worked in the past and opened up new paths for exploration …
Cover and spread from Mongrel Rapture, 2015, published by Uro Publications, Melbourne, Australia. Book design: Stuart Geddes and ARM Architecture. Principal typefaces Radim Peško’s Union and Larish Neue.
Top: Portrait by Tobias Titz.
Elizabeth Glickfeld: What is the first piece of design you remember making?
Stuart Geddes: I didn’t think of it as graphic design at the time but I remember making a series of illustrated adventure books at about the age of nine with a friend. We wrote them together and I illustrated them. They were crazy sci-fi fantasy, other-dimensional stories; I’d recently seen Star Wars. My dad’s secretary typed them up and then we photocopied or spirit-duplicated them.
EG: What is it about the architecture of ARM that chimes with your own concerns as a graphic designer?
SG: There is a sense of historicism in their work, but it is not nostalgia. They are history nerds of their discipline, but they make new things from their knowledge.
EG: How does this manifest in your graphic design?
SG: There’s what I think of as a particularly Australian or antipodean way of being influenced that rings true in how I think about type and design and that’s with these inherited -isms: inherited modernisms and postmodernisms and poststructuralisms. A lot of these architectural practices that came of age in the late 1970s and early 80s had this idea at the time that Australia was so derivative, particularly of European culture and of Anglo-European modernism; but they thought the fact that Australia was so derivative was what was so distinctive about it – how much and how poorly it copied. That’s why a lot of ARM’s early work involved actively copying – and photocopying – Venturi and Libeskind …
Video demonstrating the sheer scale of Mongrel Rapture.
Spread from the first issue of Head Full of Snakes, 2011. The ‘Indian’ of the title refers to interview subject Paddy Snowdon’s love of Indian Motorcycles, a much-loved US motorbike brand.
Elizabeth Glickfeld, co-editor, Dirty Furniture, and writer, London
Read the full version in Eye no. 92 vol. 23, 2016
Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues. You can see what Eye 92 looks like at Eye before You Buy on Vimeo.