The history of the National Trust Logo and its designer, Michael Bryce

The Australian architect and designer Michael Bryce AM, who died at the age of 82 on the 15 January 2021, is fondly remembered by the National Trust (NSW).

Michael will be known to many National Trust members as the husband of the 25th Governor-General of Australia, Dame Quentin Bryce. However, what some may not know, is he shared a significant history with the National Trust through his graphic design work for our current logo.

Before 1986, each state National Trust carried their own logos, featuring a common format but with different images to reflect the concerns of each state. The NSW logo featured a gum leaf, and also the colonial archway and fanlight from above the Observatory Hill door, while Queensland featured the ironwork from a verandah and Western Australia a Black Swan.

Each state's logo artwork

Images: the original artwork for each states’ National Trust logo, from the 1960s.

When finding a new identity, the Australian Council of National Trusts sought a design that was easily identifiable as uniquely Australian, shared across states and was not tied to a specific type of architecture.

They required an object that could work as both decorative and authoritative, acting as National Trust’s seal of approval and protection.

The press release from the time notes:

The design consultant’s brief was to find a symbol that was not specific to any one form of architectures or any one region of Australia.

“After a while we knew we wanted the gumleaf,” Bryce said, “but what form it took was difficult as there are hundreds of species of gumleaf. About the same time I was in Tasmania, near the Franklin and picked up leaves that were as a long as a man’s forearm. Their giant size and strength surprised me and the contrast with some tiny leaves we had seen at Experiment Farm was remarkable and that was it!”

The Trust Archives include these artworks for the original concept (see photographs).

the original logo concepts for the National Trust of Australia

Images: the National Trust of Australia’s original logo concepts and the final design (1986) which is still used today.

Perhaps the best way to acknowledge the National Trust’s debt to Michael Bryce is to finish with his own description of the logo, and how it applies to the work of the National Trust.

“The three leaves symbolise yesterday, today and tomorrow. A sense of continuity is contained in the regeneration process. It is timeless.”

 

James Bosanquet

Author

James Bosanquet

James is the Archives & Library Manager at the National Trust (NSW). James has an interest in Australian history, heritage and local, endemic flora.

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