Book Designer Stuart Geddes on His Three Favourite Projects

Monday November 11, 2019 Written by Kate

We’re quite partial to the innovative, award-winning work of Melbourne designer Stuart Geddes. He’s a prominent figure in the world of Australian book publishing, and a former head honcho at Chase & Galley design studio. He’s also an RMIT University Industry Fellow and creator/editor/designer of the Head Full of Snakes motorcycle journal.

We’ll be conversing with Stuart at our upcoming Design Chats event, hosted with our comrades at frankie mag and MSI (nab your tickets here!). In the meantime, we asked Stuart to give us a behind-the-scenes peek at his portfolio, and chatted to him about three projects that reflect his experimental style.


Mongrel Rapture evokes the look and feel of an illustrated bible. Why did you take it in that direction?

It was partly a pragmatic thing – we realised it was going to be a big book, but we wanted it to still be a comfortable thing to hold and to read, so bible printing allowed us to fit more in to a smaller final size. There were other reasons, too: the bible was a relevant reference to some ideas in the book, and some ideas about how to read the book, and it's a bit of a poke at architects and their books.

Why are you proud of this project?

It was a bit of a turning point for me. Partly because of its scale (1,616 pages) and how long it took (four years), but also I like that it is very distinctively its own thing.

What does it say about your particular approach to design?

I like work that's complex and difficult. Difficult to do, and with difficult things to say. I think the complexity of the content – and that the book doesn't attempt to simplify it – says something about my approach.


Your motorcycle mag Head Full of Snakes is obviously a personal project. How did that affect the creative process?

I started Head Full of Snakes with a friend, Luke Wood. I guess as a project it was very influenced by our friendship, and that we were both curious about motorcycling in different ways. So it has meandered in different directions, and taken its time, and we've been able to do fun things with it without needing to ask anyone's permission.

What’s distinctive about it, design wise?

For a motorcycle magazine, it was unusual in terms of being Risograph-printed, and having a flexi-disc vinyl record bound in. These things were probably a bit more familiar in design and small press publishing circles. From a design perspective, it's purposefully pretty straightforward. We wanted it to be about the stories and interviews, so in the end it's very text heavy and the design is quite rough and ready. Quite zine-like. These four issues were a huge learning curve on the Risograph. They're each over 100 pages with lots of multi-colour photographic work, and with print runs of between 500 and 1000 copies.


Tell us about your vision for the design of this book? How did it come about?

I designed this one with my friend Žiga Testen. We were approached by Manon van Kouswijk, who is an artist and contemporary jewellery maker, to make a book that was part artists' book and part catalogue for a new body of work she was in the middle of making. We wanted to make something that was similar in ethos to her work. Something that was fun and precious, and partly hand-made, but also used existing materials and techniques. I like how casual it is, and how it does the things it does simply but with a lively playfulness.

We spoke to Stuart in collaboration with the folks at MSI, who launched the MSI Prestige 15 laptop earlier this year. It’s super-lightweight, has 16 hours of battery charge and can be optimised for design work via the MSI Creator Centre. Check it out here.