By Denise Whitehouse
Dahl and Geoffrey Collings were pioneering, twentieth century Australian designers whose collaborative, multidisciplinary practice began in the 1930s after they met and married. Their creative practice spanned graphics, product design, exhibitions, photography and film.
During their time working abroad in London (1935-38), the Collings’ were introduced to and influenced by the work of Bauhaus figures Laszlo Maholy Nagy and Gyorgy Kepes. Inspired by the Bauhaus approach of combining art and design practice, the Collings’ returned to Australia in 1938 and along with fellow artist and designer Richard Haughton James went about establishing the commercial arts firm, the Design Centre where they would incorporate the ethos of collaboration and multidisciplinary (art and design) practice. [i]
During and following World War 2, Geoffrey Collings’ work extended from graphics into filmmaking. This was enabled by the establishment of the Australian National Film Board (ANFB) by the federal government and their mandate to sponsor non-theatrical information (documentary) films relating to the political, economic and cultural context. Geoffrey Collings directed and produced five ANFB films: Australia at School (1947), Watch Over Japan (1947), Whither Japan (1947), Public Enemies (1948) and By Design (1950). [ii]
By Design (1950) is notable as it is considered one of Australia’s first films on design. [iii] The intention of this film was to introduce the benefits of Good Design - modern and industrial, to ordinary Australians. This documentary offers insights into the 1950s belief that design should be functional and improve the quality of people's everyday lives.
Link to the Australian National Film Board (ANFB) documentary, By Design (1950) by Geoffrey and Dahl Collings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8arBggQrwg&feature=youtu.be
[i] Powerhouse Museum 2014, ‘Dahl and Geoffrey Collings Design Archive 1933-1990’, Powerhouse Museum; viewed 14 September 2014, http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/collection/database/?irn=123616
[ii] Allen J 2002, ‘Australian Visions: The Films of Dahl and Geoffrey Collings’, Eras Journal edition 4, December 2002, viewed 14 September 2014, http://www.arts.monash.edu.au/publications/eras/edition-4/allen.php
[iii] Bogle M, Design In Australia, 1880-1970, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1998, p. 133