Mimmo Cozzolino: Introduction
Symbols of Australia
LEST WE FORGET. OUR COMMERCIAL ART TRADITION.
The world of personal identity works in mysterious ways. I realised this insight soon after Symbols of Australia was published in 1980. My interest in symbols, trademarks and icons seemed natural enough for a trained graphic designer: designing them was my stock and trade. But why had I, a migrant born in Italy, become so interested in the history of Australian commercial symbols?
Because I needed to fit in to my adopted culture and feel accepted by my Aussie friends. Because I needed to prove my Australianness, first to myself, and then to my friends and peers. When I was researching the material which eventually was shaped into the book, I had no idea that this was my primary subconscious motivation.
The prototype for Symbols of Australia was a promotional poster I designed for All Australian Graffiti based on my research at the Australian Patents and Trademark Office. It featured about 80 trademarks. We released it around Anzac Day 1976 with the headline "LEST WE FORGET: the forgotten Copywriter, Designer, and Consumer. Lest We Forget Us-tralia". About 300 were screen printed, 50 more than our mailing list. Within a month they were all gone and people (our clients and friends) were offering to pay big money to get one. It got to be such a pain that in the end we had to reprint. This time we started selling them- in the thousands. Then another chant begun: "When are you going to do The Book?" When you’re on a good thing…!
There is another, and possibly more important, level at which SoA addresses the question of identity- national identity. SoA came out at a time when this question was started to be debated (again) and with the visuality of the symbolic material in the book, it added another aspect to this ongoing debate.
OK, now that I’ve got all that off my chesty bond, I’ll redirect you to some Aussies who have had things to say about this project. Before the book was published I went to see Stuart Sayers, literary editor at The Age, and he wrote an encouraging article "Visual puns and buoyant fun in Australian trademarks."
I asked Professor Geoffrey Blainey to write an introduction to the book and he provided me with "Behind the label". Just to make sure I had enough peer approbation I also asked one of my old clients, Phillip Adams, to write one. He called his "Beneath the lino" and called me a "Trade-Marxist." Helen Garner’s 1980 piece for The National Times- "Mimmo's Dinkum Memory-Jogger" is also here. Seven years later advertising commentator Gawen Rudder did "Symbols Revisited", an interview with Fysh Rutherford and I for B&T. In 2005 Brisbane designer Jason Grant wrote "Symbols of Assimilation" a piece for the British magazine "eye".
If you have never seen a copy of Symbols of Australia you can get an idea of the contents and presentation of the material at Contents & Sample Pages.
You can also buy copies of the book here.
Before I close off I want to acknowledge one very important person without whose unstinting help the book would not have been the success that it is: my mate Fysh Rutherford, editor, copywriter and creative confidante. Fysh had to first teach me how to speak English before he could help me with the editing and writing of the material. I love you Pesce!