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Matthew Roland Bannister · Monogram 1950

Graphic Design

3rd September, 2013
Lucy Feagins
Tuesday 3rd September 2013

'Monogram 1950' - a special design project for Sydney graphic designer Matthew Roland Bannister.  Photo - Sean Fennessy.

'Monogram 1950' by Matthew Roland Bannister.  Photo - Sean Fennessy.

Pagespreads from 'Monogram 1950' by Matthew Roland Bannister.  Photo - Sean Fennessy.

OK don't freak out on me, but today we are sharing a book which you cannot officially buy.  That's because there are only five copies of it in existence (one of which is held in the UTS Library Special Collection).  But we thought this special project by young Sydney-based graphic designer Matthew Roland Bannister deserved a little attention nonetheless, because the world would be a pretty boring place if creative people only ever made things with the intent on selling them!  And, at 223 pages, it's one seriously impressive love project!

Monogram 1950 is a self published book - a self initiated project by Matthew, with words by his sister Laura Bannister, and special fold-out cover imagery styled by Megan Morton.  The book brings together a series of 50 graphic monograms designed for 50 iconic people from the 1950's - an era for which Matthew has an unusual affection.

'This book is a tribute to the characters that have inspired and intrigued me' says Matthew.  'A monogram is something that gives identity to an individual.  All 50 people in this book have a story to tell, and these monograms serve to express it'.  The characters Matthew has selected for his personalised monogram treatment include legendary mid century designers Charles & Ray Eames, Alexander Girard and Mies van der Rohe, 50's film and TV stars including Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe, and New York fashion royalty (then and still now!) Iris Apfel and Bill Cunningham.

We asked Matthew a few questions about this special project -

Tell us a little bit about yourself – what did you study and what path led you to what you're doing now?

I studied a Bachelor of Design (Visual Communication) at the University of Technology Sydney and I work full-time at eskimo – a creative agency in Surry Hills that specialises in design and art direction within the retail and luxury spaces. I am also the Creative Director of BRACE Magazine.

What motivated you to create Monogram 1950? What is it about and what can we expect to find inside?

I've always had an affinity with the design, music and culture of New York in the 1950's. When I was younger I played the saxophone and looked up to musicians of the time; Charlie Parker, Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald. As I began to study design I found myself drawn to Paul Rand's clear communication and often playful graphic aesthetic. I love George Nelson's Swag Leg furniture, re-runs of Lucille Ball's I Love Lucy, and the inimitable images of Bill Cunningham – who rightfully remains such a stalwart of the fashion world.

One day I stumbled upon an image of Marilyn Monroe and Ella Fitzgerald laughing together in a cinema. I never would have guessed that they knew each other. It was around that time that I realised that these people who I had been inspired by for most of my life all had something in common – a connection to New York City in the '50s.

The aim of the book is to introduce 50 people and share something about them. From a design perspective, I challenged myself to distill these complex people into a single monogram – communicating one clear idea and nothing else.

Why are you obsessed with the cultural evolution of New York in the 1950's? What is it about NYC during this era that has struck a chord with you?

My love for that time and place is very much a byproduct of the people and their achievements in their respective fields. Creatives have always flooded to New York, and it's a place that really fosters a continual sense of change, progress and innovation. I think that what is special to me about the 1950's is that the mindset of the people, and the approach to creative work specifically, is one that I aspire to. Basic notions of colour and form were turned on their heads, yet throughout it all, everything served a purpose.

SUPER work Matthew - we love your striking monogram series, but also, what a commendable effort creating and self-funding this very special project from start to finish.  Thank goodness for passionate designers and inspired creative side projects!

For a closer look at Matthew's other design work, do check out his website.

Pagespreads from 'Monogram 1950' by Matthew Roland Bannister.  Photo - Sean Fennessy.

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