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Eric Maguire claims that his biggest contribution to graphic design was as founder of the Society of the Ambulant Cheese, an exclusive Melbourne club whose members dominated Australian design in the fifties and sixties. The way he tells it, he got the idea when he and Woman's Day parted company due to ' .... an altercation with the resident bean counter'. (The accountant went on to win a knighthood and elevation to Chairman of H&WT, no mean feat) .
Maguire, meantime, became a reluctant freelancer but missed the camaraderie of the studio. So he formulated a plan to gather together at his place all the designers and illustrators whose work he admired for talk, pasta, claret and cheese. It was probably unique as a club. There were no dues, it went on moving from house to house for years and every member was also a President. Democracy at work. There was no secretary, no minutes, but a lot of laughs and many hours of design orientated discussion. The influence of that group continues to this day.
Prior to his arrival in Melbourne, Maguire had been art director of Murrays in Sydney, then Australia's biggest magazine publisher, and a newspaper layout man with Fairfax. Good credentials; as a journo he rated A+ before 1950.
In the freelance years that followed , he worked for most of the top agencies and some great private clients. When Mirka and George Mora opened their coffee shop in Exhibition Street, it was Maguire who did the packaging.
Later, he took a job as art director of Briggs & James, now FCB. (Since James has been recognised master of the idiom, it was a hard act to follow) . Yet during those years, Maguire organised the legendary Olympic Games
Commercial Art Exhibition, had work published in the Swiss magazine, Graphis, was appointed to design a record of her Australian tour for
HM the Queen (he was and is staunchly republican) and twice scored the top award for the best annual report.
The ultimate international recognition was the publishing of the massive book Who's Who in Graphic Art, in which only six Australians got a guernsey. He remained a Fellow of the ACIAA until the wheels fell off; and was also the first
Australian to be elected to the International Centre for Typographic Arts. A founder member of the Melbourne Art Directors Club, his most creative contribution when he was elected President in 1961 was the launch of that longrunning series of Annual Seminars.
By that time Ron Walker, gun copywriter and Barbara Robertson, top fashion artist of the day, had invited him to join a new kind of advertising agency, owned by the creative department. The trio were immediately successful and the agency eventually became NAS. People like Mimmo began their
careers there. A trip to New York in the early sixties gained
Maguire a personal interview with Bill Bernbach
of DDB, who enquired 'What's all this alphabet soup on your business card?'. On his return, all the impressive initials got the chop.
While remembered as art director, designer, illustrator, calligrapher and photographer, his first love is typography. For twenty-five years now he has been threatening to write a book about it.
Printers and platemakers respect him.
He says that's the ultimate accolade.
He uses medals as paperweights.
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