Sourced from It’s Another World Record, text by Geoff Hocking and Guus van der Heyde.
Guus van der Heyde was born in Amsterdam. He spent some years in Indonesia, Singapore and Switzerland before returning to the Netherlands to complete his secondary, and tertiary education, graduating with a BA in Advertising- Photography major. Guus was one of the first graduates to be awarded a major in photography by the Academy of Art, Arnhem, the Netherlands. After graduation he worked for a number of different printing companies, both in England and Switzerland, before migrating to Australia in 1960.
On his arrival in Melbourne, with his folio under his arm, Guus did the usual round of door-knocking advertising agencies, looking for his first Australian job. He met Eric Maguire, art director at NAS Walker Robertson Maguire, who, after seeing the content of Guus’s folio, immediately made an appointment for him to see World Record Club art director Geoff Digby the next day – in Guus’s own words, ‘the rest is history’.
After this meeting Guus Van Der Heyde had his first job in Australia: ‘Geoff Digby offered me a job straight away, a month probation, £16 a week, and gave me my first record cover to design. I remember the title clearly: Choral Classics. Had it not been for John Copeland’s help, instructing me how to deal with the typo calculations for the reverse side of the sleeve, I would have promptly missed the deadline for my first cover. Apart from John Copeland, the other designers in the studio were David Leonard, a superb illustrator; John Catmull and Yolanda Kalkoen, a fellow Netherlander who did most of the finished art for the monthly newsletters and some jacket designs for the children’s label.
The Flinders Lane office was a bustling environment with the bosses Terence Cresswell-George, John Day and Cyril Fisher; writers Jenny Phillips, John Pinkney and Harvey Blanks, all falling over one another in a semblance of administration, editing and production to meet a tight and unforgiving monthly schedule. An enormous amount of design work, illustration and photography was pushed through the studio in those days and it is extraordinary to consider how much of that work, produced in what often seemed like a frenzied rush of activity, still stands up well against today’s discerning aesthetic.
It was not before long that Geoff Digby became very aware of my love affair with photography and gave me every opportunity to use my own photographs and also to work with Melbourne’s celebrated fashion photographer Athol Shmith on photographic assignments whenever possible – for me this was a fabulous experience. On several occasions Geoff even commandeered the World Record Club boardroom, turned it into a basic photographic studio, so I was able, under his direction, to take some interesting shots using professional models. Occasionally we even shanghaied some of our really good-looking staff members to pose for future sleeve designs. Looking back on all this now – what a dream job that all actually was.
John (Copeland) and I both lived in Fitzroy Street in St Kilda at that time. John had a small flat, while I had a room in a boarding-house looking out over the beach. Nearly every morning, without fail, John and I were late and had to race each other to St Kilda station to catch a red-rattler in a desperate attempt to be in the Flinders Lane studio on time, have our first coffee with a jam biscuit – our breakfast – fill the studio up with cigarette and pipe smoke, study one of the secretary’s beautiful legs while she paraded through the studio, before actually starting on our first job for the day, under the reproachful eyes of Morris Chippendale, while production manager Bruce Matthews was doing his morning exercises pretending to be the best fast bowler in the land using a screwed-up piece of paper for a cricket ball. It was Bruce, who decided to introduce me to Australian sporting life. During Geoff Digby’s absence from the studio he initiated me not only in some of the finer points of Australian Rules football, but after work also proceeded to thrash the hell out of me on the St Kilda squash courts.
While employed by the World Record Club I had the opportunity, during an unexpected visit to my home country, to visit not only my old art school to give a talk to the students there but to visit the art studio at the headquarters of Philips in Eindhoven as well, where I hoped to pick up some freelance jacket design work during my stay in Holland. I had taken along samples of my own designs, and some of David Leonard’s and John Copeland’s work, to show. Once they saw what we were doing in Australia it almost created a riot because the few designers they had working there all wanted to migrate immediately to Melbourne and work for World Record Club. They had never heard of, nor seen, such a free and creative approach to sleeve design before. Philips at that time had very strict design rules which did not allow for much imagination. A few years later all that had changed, but at the time it clearly brought home to me once again what a unique hub of creativity and design opportunities this rather small studio in Australia really was’.
It was at World Record Club that Guus met his future wife Roberta and they married in 1961, only twelve months after he had started work in the studio. The ensuing 45 years were spent bringing up, together with his wife Roberta, a family of three children, while experiencing a fascinating and challenging career in advertising as a graphic designer/photographer, and in tertiary education as senior lecturer and director of International Studies at RMIT.
After leaving World Record Club in 1963, Guus and Roberta set up their own freelance design and photography business, designing book covers, posters, brochures and general publicity material for local and international companies and advertising agencies. Clients included: Mobil Oil, Kraft Australia, the AntiCancer Council, RMIT University, Sigma Pharmaceuticals, St. Vincent’s Hospital, United Nations Postal Administration, Sovereign Hill (Ballarat), Applied Chemicals, Keilor Council, Small Business Development Corporation, The Keating Printing Group, Kodak (Australasia) and the Council of Adult Education.
At the request of RMIT University, Guus began to share his experience with students at the Faculty of Art and Design, becoming increasingly involved with the process of educating young adults while still maintaining a freelance design business, regularly exhibiting his photographic work, as well as presenting photography workshops at the Council of Adult Education for many years.
In 1981, the ‘International Year of Disabled’ Guus won the International United Nation’s stamp competition – a highlight of this period of his design career. After officially retiring from University life, and the local advertising industry in 1996, Guus and Roberta established Infinite Resources Consultancy Pty. Ltd, marketing Australian art, design and multimedia education in South East Asia, Europe, USA and Canada, with RMIT University being a major client.
Although fully retired since 2003, Guus was, until 2007, still marginally involved with RMIT’s Scientific Photography Department. As residents of the Mornington Peninsula Guus and Roberta are actively involved with the community. Through his involvement with the Peninsula and McClelland galleries Guus continues to pursue his personal interests in continuing education, the study of art history, drawing/painting, and photography – all enduring passions that have not diminished even though it is now almost 50 years since he graduated from the Academy of Art in Arnhem, headed out to the antipodes, and knocked on Digby’s door.