Tribute to Michael Bryce by Jack Bryce

Tribute to Michael Bryce, photograph of Children's section signage at Five Dock Library

Read Time: 3 minutes

SEGD pays tribute to Michael Bryce – Australian architect, environmental graphic designer and longstanding member of SEGD – who died on January 15, 2021, after a long illness. Bryce is perhaps best known for his accomplishments as Principal Design Adviser to the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

Bryce was born in Brisbane in 1938 and undertook architectural studies at the University of Queensland. In 1966, he and his wife Quentin (who later became Australia’s first female Governor General) moved to London where Michael worked as an architectural illustrator. He returned to Brisbane in 1968 and established an architectural practice as well as a graphic design and signage business, Michael Bryce Associates.

One of his earliest sign systems, for the Queensland National Parks Service in the 1970's, won the Civic Design Award (Qld) from the Australian Institute of Architects. At this time, Michael had travelled to the United States in 1978 to meet the US National Parks design team at the Harpers Ferry Center in West Virginia and share design thinking for Australian and US Parks road and pedestrian wayfinding.

In 1981, his practice turned its attention away from designing buildings. In the following decades, his firm worked with institutions such as the National Trust, the Australian War Memorial and the Commonwealth Games. He designed logos for the Wallabies rugby union team, the Australian Dolphins swimming team and Sydney’s 2000 Olympic bid, which led to his appointment as principal design adviser to the 2000 Sydney Games.

In 1988, Bryce joined his practice with those of Marcello Minale and Brian Tattersfield in London to form Minale Tattersfield Bryce and Partners, later renamed Minale Bryce Design Strategy.

The firm joined SEGD in 1992 while designing environmental graphics for the Queensland Cultural Centre. The center’s graphics won the President's Award from the Australian Institute of Architects in 1995 and recognized with a State heritage listing in 2019.

SEGD award winning projects include:
-   Prince of Wales Hospital Memorial Garden (Honor)
-   Five Dock Library (Merit)
-   Living Well Health Clubs (Merit)
-   Echo Point (Merit)

Other significant wayfinding systems included: Europe's largest retail Centre Bluewater, Sydney International Airport and The Rocks historic precinct in Sydney.

He was widely regarded as a collaborator in arts and architecture and as a mentor to generations of emerging designers who worked with his company or taught by him at universities.

“More than anyone else (in Australia), Michael Bryce recognized that architecture, urban design, environmental design, graphic design and industrial design are all aspects of a professional continuum devoted to design as an intellectual and aesthetic pursuit,” says Australian Institute of Architects Federal President Alice Hampson.

“More than anyone else, he promoted design professionals from the backroom to the boardroom and placed them at the forefront in the culture of political and business decision-making. He was a powerful advocate for the value of design not only with clients, but also with government, business and industry,” continues Hampson.

“He was a luminary who, after a long and distinguished career, leaves behind a design and placemaking, the benefits of which will continue to be felt long into the future.”

Bryce was a Life fellow of the Australian Institute of Architects. In 2006 he was inducted into the Design Institute of Australia’s hall of fame and appointed a Member of the Order of Australia. He was recognized in 2009 with an achievement award from ICOGRADA (later renamed the International Council of Design or ico_D).

In 2020, he received the Australia Design Prize, the country’s highest design accolade.

“He once said that ‘Architecture is the fulcrum of our national design identity, and this highly visible art form leads the way in so many other design endeavors, from furniture design, automotive design and urban design through interior, graphic and fashion design,’” Hampson said.

His son, Jack Bryce who worked with Michael for many years, is Brisbane Chapter co-chair of SEGD.

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