Obituary: Stewart Campbell, artist and musician

Artist and popular musician known for his design work. Picture: Contributed
Artist and popular musician known for his design work. Picture: Contributed
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Born: Dumbarton, 7 June, 1946. Died: Paisley, 6 June, 2015, aged 68.

Stewart Campbell, who has died in hospital after a short illness, designed the coat of arms of West Dunbartonshire and the corporate identity logo of Strathclyde Region.

He was a highly talented artist, graphic designer and musician, who sang and played the guitar and drums with a number of popular bands for more than 50 years in leading music and dance venues.

These included Glasgow’s King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut and Mr Micawber’s plus a host of hotels, clubs and nightspots, mainly in Glasgow and the West of Scotland. Bands he played for included Red Pepper, Tickled Pink, Tree Beard, T Bone and, most recently, Georgia Skin.

Stewart was a brilliant and popular student at Dumbarton Academy, where he was the dux medallist.

He distinguished himself at Glasgow School of Art, where he graduated with a first in graphic design and won the Haldane Travelling Scholarship and the MacLehose Design Scholarship in 1969.

His first job was with the Weir Group in Glasgow as a graphic designer in its publicity department. He later joined the large and hugely successful Rex Advertising Group as its principal designer, and was an associate director in its central design studio.

Stewart was quiet and reserved but extremely efficient, dedicated and talented especially when it came to the important matter of producing appealing campaigns on a variety of subjects.

He knew the merits of meeting strict deadlines and seldom failed to please with his artwork and designs. Many of them became part of major public authority and corporate advertising and publicity campaigns.

Stewart joined the late Harry Dutch, head of public relations, and his communications team at Strathclyde Regional Council’s headquarters in Montrose House, where his press team colleagues included former news editor of The Scotsman John McClounan, Jean Reid, John Brown and Jimmy McIntyre. High profile politicians in 1974, when the region was founded, included the genial Rev Geoff Shaw, council convener, and the legendary Councillor Dick Stewart, who led the Labour administration.

Stewart Campbell worked closely in consultation with the politicians and department heads doing the graphics for newspaper, television, magazine and poster campaigns.

He was the council’s graphics and exhibitions officer, corporate graphic designer and senior design officer and his assignments, which were challenging, dealt with everything from education to social work to roads and transport.

Top of the list was the redesign, maintenance and development of the authority’s corporate identity.

He also worked on the design and branding of Strathclyde Transport, which took over the Glasgow buses and underground – “the clockwork orange” was born then – from the old Glasgow Corporation.

When the regional council was dissolved, Stewart moved back to his home town of Dumbarton and a post at West Dunbartonshire Council, where he was the senior design officer from 1995 to 2008 when he retired. He designed West Dunbartonshire’s new corporate identity, its coat of arms and flag, using images of shipbuilding, heavy engineering, a dove of peace, the elephant and castle and St Patrick, the local saint.

The new council logo was based on the confluence of the rivers Leven and Clyde, Loch Lomond and the Kilpatrick Hills.

Politicians must often wonder what their staff and other public servants think of them.

Stewart, normally so reserved but witty with a dry sense of humour, enlightened them when he wrote a valedictory message on social media.

He said: “When I worked for the council I was tasked to draw up the ‘coat of arms’, although we already had an established corporate identity, which was only to be used on councillors’ business stationery – and on nothing else.

“This was a Labour council who all wanted to be little Lords and Ladies – all of them signing up to the whole idea of the class system in Britain. Now they’re starting to use it everywhere. What a bunch of closet Tories!”

Stewart, whose politics leaned towards nationalism, said he was glad to be out of local government – “freedom at last,” he said, and welcomed the opportunity to spend more time with his family.

His wife Agnes, whose brother, Marius Van Der Werff, designed Scottish Television’s Taggart detective series, sadly died in 2005. Stewart and Agnes are survived by their three children, Shirley, Stewart and Jamie, and their six grandchildren Laura, Craig, Millie, Glen, Isla and Rona.

Stewart’s interests outside music and design included literature, sport, photography and painting and researching his family tree.

His favourite piece of prose was from Shakespeare’s Macbeth:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,

To the last syllable of recorded time;

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

He also enjoyed sport. His grandfather’s elder brother was John Tait (Jacky) Robertson, who played for Dumbarton, Rangers and Scotland.

He was the first ever manager of Chelsea FC, a coach in Europe and later a sports writer for the Daily Record.

Stewart was proud of the family’s connection with Dumbarton, Rangers and Chelsea and was, predictably, interested in the design of their badges.

He said: “At the time, the early 20th century, Chelsea Football Club was formed by Scottish ex-pats living and working in London hence the blue shirts and the lion rampant on the club badge.”

Stewart Campbell will be sadly missed by his many friends in music and local government and by many friends and associates for whom he produced artwork for their businesses stationery and corporate logos.

His daughter, Shirley McAlpine, who sang with many of her father’s bands, said: “My father was devoted to his work with the council and loved nothing better than taking photographs of the area for council publications and researching the history of Dumbarton.”

The funeral arrangements have still to be announced.