Vale Les Mason
20th October, 2009
AGDA was saddened by the news that Les Mason - graphic designer, AGDA Spicers Paperpoint Hall of Fame member and figure in the Melbourne graphic design community for many years - passed away on Friday while attending the 2009 AGI Conference in Istanbul.
‘His contribution to the culture a practice of design in Australia is well recognised by a generation of contemporaries who have been significantly influenced by his extensive knowledge, standout innovative design and uncompromising integrity. His work has been widely acclaimed and celebrated internationally. His studio in Eastern Road South Melbourne became a magnet for the design community of that time.
True to his unpredictable character, he came to graphic design unconventionally, after a term in the merchant navy as a breakfast chef and as the proprietor of a bar and dance hall on the Mexican border of Texas. Later he enrolled in University to study design. Then opened his own studio in Los Angeles. In the early 60s Les accepted a position at USP Benson, where he produced notable campaigns for national and international clients.
Famously Les designed the kinetic site hoarding for Roy Grounds National Gallery of Victoria building and his ground breaking editorial design for Epicurean Magazine looks as fresh today as it was in its time. His acrylic paintings that informed the visual language of Epicurean Magazine were celebrated by a one person exhibition at Realities Gallery.
His legendary design capability was matched by his disruptive social exploits and robust wicked sense of humour. He was a one of a kind, larger than life personality, with an excessive lust for life, a big heart and a passion for art.
Farewell to an exceptional free spirit'. - Garry Emery
‘The internet has few traces of Les's work, yet his influence and mentorship upon prominent Australian designers including Garry Emery, Brian Sadgrove, Lyndon Whaite, and Max Robinson is prolific and legendary. I was lucky enough to spend a week with Les in Berlin during the Autumn of 2005, also attending my first AGI congress. Les had a hell raising reputation, even in retirement. Our week had our wits fine tuned and ears pricked for stories and insights of a recent past when design had typesetters, bromide cameras, and a lack of fax machines, marketing speak, i-phones, and software filters.
If you happen to be at the Rising Sun Hotel in South Melbourne, one of Les's favourite haunts, dream up a great story, raise a little hell and a glass to Les'. - Andrew Ashton
‘Les's influence was immeasurable and his friendship irreplaceable. I'll miss him.' - Brian Sadgrove
‘He was a much loved though outrageous creature....it's perfectly typical that he should go in exotic surroundings, surrounded by like minds. Les came to Melbourne from the West Coast (USA) in the early sixties to work for swingin' ad agency USP Benson. Up until then Melbourne graphic design at the high end was firmly in the grasp of Dick Beck, Jimmy James, Max Forbes et al ... great designers all, but a little Englishy ... y'know. When Les extracted himself from his agency and started practising freelance, he gave Melbourne Design a mighty shake, and out fell Garry Emery, Brian Sadgrove, Lyndon Whaite, Richard Henderson, Bruce Weatherhead ... the place was never the same again ... Toodleoo Les, you were great while you lasted'. - Max Robinson
‘Les was a mentor and a friend. we worked closely for a number of years and he encouraged me to make a difference, in design and in life, he had an equally strong influence on many designers in WA. We are collectively saddened at his passing but we will always remember him and the many good times we spent together. There was never a dull moment when he was around.
He was a design icon with a strong character, he motivated us and we came together to talk design and build awareness, usually over lunch. One initiative that came to fruition was the production of a book featuring the work of WA graphic designers and a launch event, with Les speaking for the design industry and the minister for arts as guest speaker to follow. As usual Les spoke with passion and intensity about the local and regional opportunities for design in WA which prompted the minister to say that he was a very hard act to follow.
He is indeed a hard act to follow'. - Russell Springham.
‘Les was the AGDA Spicers Paperpoint Hall of Fame inaugural inductee at the 1992 AGDA National Awards. Passionate, tenacious, relentless, outspoken, he never minced his words and lived life to the full! Much admired and respected for a lifetime's legendary work, Les leaves an indelible mark on Australian design - including the AGDA logo! Thank you Les.' - Rita Siow
‘If you had to say one thing about Les Mason, it would have to be that he is to be acknowledged for his big heart when it comes to design; for his contribution and generosity to the love that has been his life. No one has given more or enjoyed it more' - excerpt from Design World magazine, 1992
Our sympathy and thoughts go to Les's family. Vale Les Mason.
If you would like to post a comment please visit our related blog item for Les.
Image by David Pidgeon, from left Peter Till, Juliet Till, Christine Fisher, Les Mason, Jeff Fisher and Gail Mason, in Istanbul.