State of Design has been over for a couple of weeks now, but because of scheduling difficulties I haven’t had a chance until now to do the Characters & Spaces free self-guided walk by Letterbox with my trusty photographer, RM.

Character is a program run by the Communication Design Program at RMIT which ‘seeks to explore and express the cultural and social significance of graphic design and typography to a broader community’. Basically, this meant a very enjoyable two hours poking around the CBD on a Sunday, spotting an array of delightful gems hidden in what I thought were my familiar well-trodden tracks. Here are some of the highlights:

Stop 1. I must have walked through Centreway Arcade thousands of times and I’ve never really looked up. If you do look up, you’ll see that the southern end of the arcade has some Helvetica letters set into diamond configurations.  Put  them all together and it says ‘We live in a society that sets an inordinate value on consumer goods and services’. What a thought-provoking message to include in a shopping arcade!

Centreway Arcade Melbourne

Centreway Arcade Melbourne

The other bizarre thing you’ll find on the second floor of the arcade are the light poles, which have the shape of Australia attached to them. So daggy and kitsch.

Stop 2: At 247-249 Collins St is Newspaper House, with a beautiful glittering mosaic on its facade. Again, a building I’ve passed thousands of times and never even noticed a glimmer of gold. I think many passersby were equally amazed when they saw us gazing upwards and noticed the mosaic for the first time too.

newspaper house collins st melbourne

The facade was created by neo-classical mural artist Napier Waller and the quote ‘I’ll put a girdle round about the earth’ comes from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (my favourite Shakespearean play). If you look closely at the mosaic. you can see a telephone pole, light globe and the date of its installation.

Stop 9: The tacky souvenir shops of Swanston St overwhelm a lovely cursive script attached onto the side of what used to be The Graham Hotel at 67-73 Swanston St. The sign is best viewed from across the road at City Square.

graham hotel swanston st melbourne

Stop 10: You really have to crane your neck for this one. Stand on the steps of 247 Flinders Lane and look amongst the rooftops for the half obscured signage for the iconic Majorca building. Many tourists have photographed the Majorca facade, but I’ll bet that hardly any have ever spotted this sign.

Majorca Building, Centre Place Melbourne

Stop 11: Have you ever noticed that the City Library signage is written on a big ‘L’ for ‘library’?

Stop 16: At 1-5 Elizabeth St you’ll see an abstract mural by Richard Beck of three glasses clinking together on the side of Hosie’s Hotel – apparently the colours have faded since 1953. In front of the mural is an old sign indicating the tram routes to the Royal Melbourne show, which for some reason has never been removed.

hosies hotel elizabeth st melbourne

Stop 17: The now defunct Australian Natives Association (28-32 Elizabeth St) was housed at in a building which features a menagerie of native fauna, although we thought one of them on the right side of the shield looked like a pig with a spear through it?

ANA Elizabeth St Melbourne

I’m keeping a hold of my pamphet for future guests, as I think it’s a wonderful way to discover a side of Melbourne that not many tourists see. To  download a copy of the guide click here.

If you’d like more information about interesting architecture around Melbourne, check out Walking Melbourne. They run walking tours, as do Hidden Secrets, who run walking tours exploring the laneways and arcades of Melbourne.