Reprinted from the Southern Illinoisian August 12, 2012 7:00am
By Adam Testa, The Southern Illinoisian
Primo Angeli remembers the phone call. Six thousand copies of the official United States poster for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, had rolled off the presses. Angeli had found success designing Olympic posters, beginning with the 1996 event in Atlanta and continuing with the Salt Lake City games in 2008. But there was a problem with the Sydney posters. “Do you know how many “N”s are in millennium? Two. We only had one,” said Angeli, a West Frankfort native now residing in San Francisco. “We panicked.” As fate would have it, though, complications with shipment caused the posters to become damaged. The entire run had to be reprinted — with the correct spelling. That story is only one of many anecdotes Angeli has accumulated through his decades of experience.
The SIU Carbondale alumnus built a career out of creating brand identities and designs for major national and international companies such as Nestlé and Miller. After Sydney, Angeli’s involvement with the Olympics halted. In 1999, he sold the California-based company he had started, which had grown to more than 60 employees and offices on both coasts, and moved to Italy with his wife. When San Francisco launched its campaign to host the 2016 Olympics, organizers reached out across the ocean and asked Angeli to design the imagery for their efforts. The city fell short, with the Games heading to Rio de Janeiro, but Angeli was back in the spotlight. He was contacted to submit a design for the United States’ poster for this year’s London Olympics. Angeli modified the design he’d created for San Francisco and sent it in. His design was selected as the official U.S. poster for the event and has received much critical acclaim. “We’ve gotten some of the best responses of any of the work we’ve done,” Angeli said.
Working on projects like the Olympics posters, as well as one for the 1998 World Cup match between France and Brazil, has been one of the highlights of Angeli’s career. While talking about working with companies like Ben and Jerry’s and DHL, he said, “Those are the (jobs) that pay the bills.” Not too bad an outcome, considering Angeli never wanted to get in on the Olympics work. When one of his sales leaders brought him the opportunity to submit a proposal for the 1996 Games in Atlanta, he said to ignore it. His employee didn’t. His company was one of 450 that submitted proposals, and when the pool kept being reduced, he thought each step would be the end. But from 450 to 200 to 50 and then to the final 10 or so, he and his crew advanced the whole way. “I never expected it,” he said. Now, Angeli and his wife are in the process of relocating back to San Francisco from Italy. He plans to re-launch his company, albeit it on a small scale. He’s also looking forward to being able to visit his home in Southern Illinois without boarding a trans-Atlantic flight.