Mimmo (Domenico) Cozzolino (1949–) occupies a unique position within the annals of Australian graphic design. His multi-faceted career has embraced design practice, cultural research and publishing, fine art photography, pedagogy and more.
Mimmo was raised in the town of Herculaneum in the shadows of Mt Vesuvius, immigrating to Australia with his family in 1961. He began an engineering course at Preston Tech before switching to graphic design at the Prahran College of Advanced Education (later Swinburne University). It was at Preston Tech that he first met Con Aslanis, a Greek immigrant who has played a central role in his life, both personally and professionally. Following brief stints working in Sydney (at Monad Marketing with Ricci Eaton), and Melbourne (at NAS Advertising with Eric Maguire) he began freelancing alongside Aslanis.
Cozzolino’s studio collaborations with Aslanis, initially as All Australian Graphics (1972–74), and then the seven person illustration collective All Australian Graffiti (1975–78), resulted in some of the most influential local work of the 1970s. As outsiders, these ‘New Australians’ provided a unique perspective on their adopted country, reflecting inward for inspiration, while many of their colleagues looked to Europe or the US for their reference points. The Kevin Pappas Tear Out Postcard Book, an irreverent look at Australian culture, personified the studio’s output. Published by Penguin in 1977, the book sold 24,000 copies, an incredible success. Phillip Adams summed up their contribution; “in the past immigrants like William Dampier and James Cook had discovered Australia. In the early 1970s, Mimmo and Con discovered it all over again”.
For a brief period between 1980–84 Cozzolino ran a small studio with illustrator David Hughes, before co-founding the idiosyncratically named Cozzolino Ellett Design D’Vision Pty Ltd alongside Phil Ellett. With Cozzolino acting as a design manager and Ellett focused on creative, the studio flourished, attracting a healthy roster of corporate work and winning many awards. In 2001, Cozzolino retired from the business, ready for a fresh challenge.
Cozzolino’s fascination with our culture can be traced back to his childhood in Italy. Awaiting passage to Australia, his father Michele’s stories of ‘canguros’ and laughing birds, sparked an interest he has retained his whole life. This fixation would eventually manifest in a best-selling book, Symbols of Australia, an archive of over 1700 Australian trademarks Cozzolino diligently researched and recorded on an intermittent basis for eight years. First published in 1980, and edited and written with Fysh Rutherford, the book has sold over 45,000 copies. It remains one of the few published documentations of Australian graphic design.
In 2003, Cozzolino reinvented himself as a fine artist, pursuing his long-held interest in documentary photography. Somewhat controversially, he was awarded the Leica/CCP Documentary Photography Award by the Centre for Contemporary Photography for his work Arcadia del Sud: West Heidelberg Melbourne Australia Circa 1966 (2003). The deliberately blurred suburban family snapshots attracted the ire of many traditional documentary photographers who weren’t quite ready to accept their new colleague’s innovative interpretation of their craft.
Cozzolino’s commitment to education stretches back to 1973. He has taught, lectured, supervised, work-shopped and assessed in many leading design schools both here and abroad. Determined to raise the standards of the design profession, he has invested countless hours in industry events and schemes. Most significantly, he was one of the five founding members of AGDA in 1987.
Clearly, having enjoyed such a varied career, Cozzolino is difficult to classify within the limited taxonomy of graphic design. Indeed, his ceaseless examination into what it means to be Australian may ultimately prove to be his greatest legacy.
Mimmo with All Australian Graffiti’s kangaroo folio case. The case was designed by partner Con Aslanis and made by Rob Reid in 1976. Portrait: Tim Handfield, 1976.
Lest We Forget poster, researched and designed by Mimmo in 1976 to promote both All Australian Graffiti and the search for Australian trademarks.
All Australian Graffiti members, from left, Geoff Cook, Izi Marmur, Tony Ward, Neil Curtis (1950-2006), Mimmo, Meg Williams and Con Aslanis. Photograph: Bob Bourne, 1977.
The Kevin Pappas Tear Out Postcard Book (Penguin Books, 1977). The book contained 28 postcards and was both a studio promotion and a salable cultural product. It sold over 24000 copies. The project was coordinated by Mimmo. Cover cushion design and illustration: Tony Ward. Cover photograph: John Street, 1977.
As front man for All Australian Graffiti, Mimmo was also involved in promoting the studio. Here he is wearing a half-kangaroo suit he had sewn to launch The Kevin Pappas Tear Out Postcard Book. Photograph: Rennie Ellis, 1977.
The Australian Book Publishers Association ‘Best designed book of the year award’ for 1980 went to Symbols of Australia. It was a tradition that the winner of this award also design the presentation catalogue, pro-bono. Design and cover photograph: Mimmo Cozzolino, 1981.
Symbols of Australia was first published in 1980 but the idea for the book came to Mimmo in 1970, his final year at art school. Edited and co-written with Fysh Rutherford. Cover illustration: Geoff Cook, 1980.
Avanti! was the first series of Italian language textbooks written and designed specifically for Australian children. The creative team included Elio Guarnuccio, writer and publisher; Michael Sedunary, writer; Mimmo Cozzolino, designer; Neil Curtis, illustrator. The first volume was published in 1982.
Mimmo Cozzolino and friends. Portrait: Elizabeth Gilliam, 1986.
In 1987 W Rankin, S Huxley, R Henderson, T Flett and M Cozzolino kickstarted the concept of an association to represent graphic designers nationally. By the time Arthur Leyden’s First Asia Pacific Design Conference happened in 1988 in Mildura, the idea of “AGDA” was close to becoming a reality. In this photograph designers at the conference show their support for the formation of AGDA. Photographer unknown.
Growing up in Australia: an exhibition of the ephemera of childhood by the Ephemera Society of Australia. Studio: Cozzolino Ellett. Design: Mimmo Cozzolino. Headline hand-lettering: Olivia Cozzolino, age 9. Photography: Mike Rutherford, 1988.
Australian Print Production Association forum poster. Presenter and poster designer: Mimmo Cozzolino. Photograph: Mike Rutherford, 1991.
Promotional poster for Cozzolino Ellett Design D’Vision. Creative direction: Mimmo Cozzolino, Phil Ellett. Design and Illustration: Jeff Fisher, 1993.
ARCADIA DEL SUD, West Heidelberg Melbourne Australia circa 1966. Exhibition: Mimmo Cozzolino, 2003.
FLUSH 1990–2003, A series of scans of found objects. Exhibition: Mimmo Cozzolino, 2003.
AGIdea’s 25th anniversary tribute. Design and illustration: Mimmo Cozzolino, 2015.
Ephemera Journal of Australia. Design and photography: Mimmo Cozzolino, 2015, 2016.