Marks From Down Under

Mimmo Cozzolino, a speaker at last week’s ICOGRADA OPTIMISM conference during Design Week Brisbane, is an Italian-born emigre and one of Australia’s pioneer graphic designers and illustrators, and a founding member of Australia’s first graphic design organization. In 1980 he co-authored Symbols of Australia (cover detail top) with Fysh Rutherford; it was the first book to acknowledge the nascent commercial art down under.

Sadly, the book is hard to find even in Australia. Happily, Cozzolino provided me with one of the rare editions. And mercifully, Cozzolino’s website does print some of the text, which indeed speaks volumes:

A lost Australia has been found in the last fifteen or twenty years. Folk songs and slang, old buildings, bottles and bedsteads, old Australian paintings and films and books have been appreciated afresh. And in this book Mimmo Cozzolino shows us, for the first time, how Australian trademarks were a mirror of people’s dreams, ambitions, and daily life.

Just as the Commonwealth designed its own coat of arms and flag, so thousands of firms designed their own slogans and symbols – in short their trademarks. The rise of the trademark was mainly the result of the industrial revolution and the widening range of products made in factories. Trademarks were also multiplied by a change which has barely reached the history books – the packaging revolution. Whereas in 1850 many households in Australia made soap, candles, clothes, medicines, jam, bread and butter in their own kitchen, in 1900 the factories increasingly made these goods, selling them under distinctive brands and trademarks. In 1850 a general store sold most of its goods straight from the packing cases, vats, chests and barrels and then transferred them to the customers’ baskets, bags, containers and billies, but more and more goods in 1900 were sold in individual bottles, tins, jars and other labelled containers.

As the standard of living increased, people could afford to buy a wider variety of products. Bicycles and sewing machines and other innovations entered the market: being almost identical they needed a trademark to show that they were not. Literacy increased, and advertising became an industry. In the era before radio and film, the printed word and the painted picture dominated advertising; and the typical trademark combined the two.

You can try to find it here. It’s definitely worth the search.

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