May 02, 2012

Alumnus is finalist in Olympics poster competition

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Probably you’ve seen his work.  He’s helped make such companies as Ben & Jerry’s, Coca-Cola, Guinness, Intel, Nestlé, Stroh’s Brewery, Levi Strauss, General Foods, General Mills, Banana Republic, Xerox, Hyatt Hotels and others into household names. 

Next up: The 2012 Olympics.

He’s Primo Angeli, graphic design wizard.  And, he’s a Saluki.

Angeli’s multi-media illustration, “London Calling,” won the U.S. Olympic Sport and Art Contest, and will advance to international competition in June at the International Olympic Committee art contest in Lausanne, Switzerland.  In all, artists representing 48 countries will vie for the cash award and for the prestige of being the official poster artist for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

“London Calling” incorporates the fine art classic image of a discus thrower with contemporary marketing motifs. 

Angeli has been a big name in the branding-marketing world for years.  In fact, this isn’t even his first Olympic moment: he designed the official poster for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

He earned his bachelor of arts degree in painting and print making at SIU Carbondale in 1957, and his master’s degree at SIU Carbondale in communication design in 1959.  His graduate work was completed on scholarship under Buckminster Fuller and Harold Cohen.  He founded his company, Primo Angeli, Inc., in San Francisco in 1967.  Besides the graphics design for which he is famous, his company specializes in branding, corporate identity, packaging, naming and media services.

“It was a special time when I was at SIU in the ‘50’s,” he said in a recent interview.  “A fine arts degree was followed by a master’s degree with Harold Cohen, Bucky Fuller, and those fabulous people of the ‘new school’ and Bauhaus influence.  I brought this background to the West Coast, where I found the Beat Generation and the hippies and a number of other off-the-wall things happened.  This was a catalyst for experiences I could not have found anywhere in the United States.”

Angeli referred to his SIU Carbondale master’s thesis, “The Visual Symbol as a Tool in Communication,” as a launching point for his success the Silicon Valley as he forged a name for himself in helping the leadership of commercial companies create names -- and visual identities -- for themselves.

“Package design development surfaced in San Francisco throughout the ‘60’s, and my two-man company grew into a serious design atelier with interns and young designers among the more experienced prodigy, product development, and marketing staff.”

Angeli described the stone sculpture that inspired his “London Calling” poster design as “a significant tribute to an athlete’s fluid mobility.”  The sculpture, he said, attributed to Greek sculptor Myron from approximately 450 B.C., was counterpoint to the modern graphic techniques he used in the poster. That genre of poster and in that style that he created he calls “celebratory posters.”

“ ‘Celebratory’ was a name given to me by Andrew Jameson, the fabulous Byzantine scholar, who argued that my previous title, ‘Commemorative,’ made it sound like commemorating ‘the dead.’  Well, (this poster series) is about the living, and Celebratory Poster Stories more clearly delineates a memorable event in visual communication,” he said, explaining a crucial part of his philosophy pertaining to creating a visual representation of an event.

Angeli’s designs are part of the permanent collections of elite venues including the Smithsonian Institution, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among other places. 

He is also the author of “Twelve Stories,” and “Making People Respond,” books about design, communication, and branding.  His newest book, with celebratory poster stories of American events, is due in July 2012.

The U. S. Sport Academy contest for the Olympic poster honor is conducted under the auspices of the United States Olympic Committee.  An international jury of art experts and representatives of the International Olympic Committee’s Commission for Culture and Olympic Education, and the Olympic Museum will select the final winner, and will name a second and third place, and five honorable mentions.