Primo Angeli Biography

Primo Angeli




Graphic designer, painter, and printmaker Primo Angeli was born in West Frankfort, Illinois, on May 6, 1906, to Italian immigrant parents. He earned his BFA in 1957 and his Masters in Communications Design in 1959 at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where among his advisors were Buckminster Fuller and the school's design department founder Harold Cohen. Their influence inspired the arc of Angeli's study trajectory from fine arts to graphic design. After graduation and serving as 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Airforce, he moved to California, settling in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife Roberta Angeli (nee Jones). 

The 1960s were a boon for graphic artists as the popularity of commercial art became amplified by the world of rock & roll and anti-war activism, to which San Francisco played host. Starting out as a commercial artist and graphic design instructor in Palo Alto, Angeli broke into the popular design world with his somber, stark anti-war design titled "The Silent Majority", a response to Richard Nixon's utterance during the Vietnam War, which featured a black and white image of the Colma military cemetery taken by Angeli's friend, photographer Lars Speyer.

In 1967 he opened a design studio in Potrero Hill, and by the 1970s Angeli was one of the nation's leading graphic designers, with commissions from San Francisco staples such Boudin Bakery, P.G. Molinari & Sons, Tommy's Joynt, and the San Francisco Symphony, to international conglomerates such as Coca Cola, Nestle, Xerox, and DHL. He would go on to design posters for the Atlanta, Salt Lake City, and Sydney Olympics, the 50th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge, the 1998 World Cup, and other major events. By his retirement in 1999, he had earned over 350 awards and recognitions. 

Angeli's work is included in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution, Library of Congress, Cooper-Hewitt Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and more.  

Primo Angeli died in California on October 25, 2003.