Friday, February 6, 2009

Interview - David Band

Identity design for The Botanical restaurant, by Melbourne design firm Mahon & Band

I first came across the work of Melbourne design firm Mahon & Band recently while drooling over Dinosaur Designs' stunning 'Bird' mail-out late last year.... remember? Of course I googled them immediately, and soon realised that this supremely talented and well-respected design studio are in fact a small husband and wife creative team, based locally in Melbourne's Balaclava.

Artist David Mahon established Mahon & Band with his wife Fiona Mahon in 1996. Since then the pair have produced a diverse range of graphic work, and have become well known for their work for some of Australia's most high-profile restaurants and bars. Mahon & Band have such a varied approach to their work for clients in the hospitality industry - whilst they've designed many identities and menus for these clients, no two jobs look even remotely alike. Mahon & Band have such a great knack for incorporating various design elements such as photography, illustration and fine art into their work, ensuring each product is entirely unique and distinctive. The result is classic, yet striking everytime.

Thankyou so much to David for his time with this interview!

Tell me a little about your background – what path led you to what you’re doing now?

I studied Textiles at Glasgow and the Royal College London back in the eighties. This fuelled a joint interest in both fine art and design. When I left college a few of us set up ‘the cloth’ - a multi disciplinary studio where we painted, designed fabrics, record sleeves cards etc. I left London to pursue my growing interests in painting. But I soon fell into design again with various graphics companies wishing to use my images for various projects. Soon my controlling artist side took over and I felt the necessity to form my own company which I did in 1996 with partner Fiona Mahon. The practice remains tight employing only one other designer.

You’re an established fine artist, however you also co-run a successful and highly respected design consultancy. How do you balance your ongoing work as an artist, with the everyday demands of running a commercial design studio? How do these two facets of your creative output complement each other?

I tend to work mornings in the office and afternoons in the adjoining studio. Obviously this alters around exhibition deadlines and project completions. The imagery tends to be quite different, but the aesthetics are similar.

Identity design, postcards and business cards for vintage/industrial shop A Day on Earth, featuring owner David Bromley's illustrations and hand-cut wooden lettering.

Mahon and Band has become well known for your prolific work in high-end hospitality identity design. You’ve been involved with well-known establishments such as Bistro Guillaume, Rockpool, The Botanical and Icebergs. What led to this specific area of expertise? What is in you enjoy about this type of work?

Word of mouth. The first job we did was for The Melbourne Wine Room. Maurice used us again for Otto, Nove, Icebergs and North Bondi, other restaurateurs liked what we were doing and realised we could diversify our imagery enough to create different looks. I enjoy food and feel privileged to be able to enjoy the odd meal at these restaurants.

Identity and graphic work for Sydney's famed Icebergs restaurant and bar

What have been some of your favourite creative projects?

Sounding totally clich├ęd, all the restaurant work has been creatively rewarding.

When you approach a brief initially, where do you turn for inspiration – books, magazines or the web? Do you pay attention to trends in the broader design world like fashion, film, architecture etc?

Inspiration normally evolves from discussion with the client. You tend to get a feel for what they want fairly immediately. Then the drawing begins. If I draw inspiration from other sources it would be from Fine art. My knowledge of graphics is very limited. And keeping up with current trends no longer interests a man of middle age.

Stunning rich photography - used for both the print material and the striking interior of Sydney's Rockpool.

Which designers, artists or creative people are you inspired by?

Anyone with a good track record and an ability to keep us all interested.

What's the best thing about your job?

Creative control.

And the worst?

Having to justify an intuitive response.

What would be your dream project?

Tour merchandise for the Faces reunion tour.

What are you looking forward to?

Going home tonight.

Menus for the recently opened Public Bar and Trattoria at The Beresford Hotel in Sydney's Darlinghurst.

Melbourne Questions –

Where do you shop in Melbourne for the tools and materials of your trade – i.e. sketching materials, computer equipment, reference publications?

Art stuff – St. Lukes
Computer equipment – The Apple shop?
Reference – Albert park bookstore and Amazon.

What/where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

Flounder at the Half Moon, Brighton.

Identity and Menus for Half Moon in Brighton, featuring watercolours by Chris Connell.

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

Enjoying breakfast at home with Fiona and Alfie, who never seem to be up when I leave for work.

Melbourne’s best kept secret?

The weather – it’s not that bad.


  1. stunning diversity, gorgeous work, makes me want to go to each of those stylish restaurants mmm. Great interview Lucy, thanks x

  2. Lucy, another fabulous interview. Love his ability to read his clients and design for their needs/aesthetic, a great talent.xx

  3. I was just about to say what Kylie just said: thanks Lucy for another great interview. I love the diversity of the creative people you interview, and the fabulous accompanying images. Love David's work... and yours too.

  4. Oh ladies thankyou so much for your sweet comments :) I have had a very discouraging day working on a certain creative project... and your comments have brightened up my day no end!

    Victoria - thank so much! Yes I know.. makes me wish I had the $$$ for frequent trips to Rockpool and The Botanical! You have the best taste in stylish restaurants, that's for sure!

    Kylie - Thankyou so much for your kind words. Yes I am such a fan of David's work... such variety is quite rare in commercial graphic design I think...

    Lisa - Thanks so much for your beautiful comment! You've put a big smile on my face :) I truly appreciate you taking a moment to let me know you enjoy these interviews! x x

  5. You know David is David Band and Fiona is Fiona Mahon, hence Mahon and Band. David is not David Mahon, small details...