AMS Logo Competition
Context – why do we need a new logo?
The AMS logo represents a design in an Aboriginal Australian style from the northern Australia region; however, it was not designed by an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander artist.
At the 2021 AGM, former AMS President Vera Weisbecker brought up the use of Aboriginal Australian-style art in the AMS logo (further detail can be read below). After many discussions, the current council have decided that even though the logo’s design was intended to highlight the relationship of First Nations Australians with Australian mammals and was made in the spirit of inclusivity and respect for First Nations Australians, Indigenous-style artwork is widely, and rightly, scrutinized in the context of cultural appropriation.
Current logo of the Australian Mammal Society designed by artist Robert Warneke in the late 1970s
Action – how can we replace the Society’s iconic logo?
We have decided to cease the use of the current logo and run a competition for a new logo, which will be chosen and announced at the 2023 AMS conference. The competition will be open to anyone, not just members of the society, and the winner will receive complimentary registration to the 2023 AMS conference and a 1-year membership to the Society.
Logo re-design competition - Terms
- Eligibility: anyone (who is not a current Councillor for the AMS) can enter, but the entry must be your own original artwork (i.e., not made by a colleague or family member on your behalf and not made with AI technology). Entrants can submit up to three different designs.
- Design: The logo must represent the Australian Mammal Society, which is a scientific society that aims to contribute to the greater understanding and conservation of Australasian mammals. The logo must be a simple and timeless design that works in colour and black and white. It must be scalable (still legible at small sizes), and not similar to any other organisation or society logo. Importantly, the logo must not be of a style that could be perceived as appropriating a cultural style or artwork if the artist is not of that cultural background.
- Description: The artist should include a short description (no more than 200 words) of their design and how it represents the Society and Australasian mammalogy research.
- File format and resolution: The design must be a vector file or an image with a minimum resolution of 600 DPI.
- Copyright and use: entrants agree to license and grant the Australian Mammal Society a non-exclusive, royalty-free, worldwide right to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish and display all or part of their entry for promotion of the competition or the Society, without compensation, restriction on use, or liability. Entrants agree not to assert any moral rights in relation to such use and warrant that they have full authority to grant these rights.
- All entries will be screened by the AMS council for relevance and image quality before shortlisting. The council reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual who is in breach of these conditions.
- All entries will be considered by the AMS council and suitable entries will be shortlisted. Shortlisted entries will be voted on by AMS members (via an online poll) over a week’s period, coinciding with the Annual Scientific Meeting. The winner will be contacted by email within 5 days of the conclusion of the voting period.
- Entry into this competition is deemed acceptance of these terms and conditions.
The competition is now open. All entries must be received by the 31st of August 2023. The winner will be announced at the 2023 AGM.
Check out the about us page to get some design inspiration that represents the Society’s values and history.
Background information from the minutes of the 2021 AGM
The use of Aboriginal Australian style art in the AMS logo (Vera Weisbecker)
The AMS logo represents a design in an Aboriginal Australian style from the North of Australia Region. It was adopted and first published on Australian Mammalogy in 1980. Its creator, Robert Warneke, provided a detailed account of the Logo’s origin in the 2009 AMS October newsletter. With regards to the origins of the design, the following passages are of interest:
“An appropriate species to represent the Australian Mammal Society obviously had to be Indigenous, and either rendered accurately ‘in life’ or in a stylised form that was instantly recognisable nationally and, preferably, internationally as well.”
“I then elaborated along the lines of the so-called X-ray technique that is so familiar from representations of animals in Aboriginal bark paintings. The emblematic kangaroo is therefore not a copy of any particular original Aboriginal work, which in my view would have been an offensive plagiarism, but the structure and detail is derivative and the design owes its strength and character to that wonderful and wholly Indigenous art form. However, my choice was not simply for artistic effect; there is a sub-text. Stylistically and symbolically the emblem enabled me to suggest a link between the Society’s aims and responsibilities and the heritage of the original managers and conservators of Australia’s fauna and their deep spiritual affinity with the land.”
The spirit in which the logo was made demonstrates the AMS’ long-standing aspiration to be inclusive of and respectful to First Nations Australians. However, Indigenous-styled artwork is widely, and rightly, scrutinized in the context of cultural appropriation and unlicensed use of Indigenous intellectual property, worldwide. This goes hand in hand with the recognition that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be the decision makers as to what use of their art is appropriate.
To my knowledge, there are no mechanisms that allow for licensing or approval of our logo, and its non-commercial nature, lack of species-specificity, and explicit avoidance of potentially plagiarised content hopefully render it inoffensive for the time being. Replacing the logo to remove reference to Aboriginal Australian style imagery is also clearly not desirable for the reasons Robert Warneke gave. However, in the longer term, we might need to monitor the acceptability of the logo, and act on opportunities to either have it approved or to replace it with work from an appropriate Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander artist.
This submission is not related to a member’s vote – it is just to raise awareness of the issue, and to gather feedback and suggestions from the membership as to the future of our logo.
In addition, I would like to record Robert Warneke’s position on my above submission. He wrote to me:
“I think you are wise to take this initiative at this time when the First Nations peoples are becoming more assertive, telling their history since colonisation (so many ghastly known tragedies, so many voices stilled) in the face of the continuing denial of colonial attitudes and those events, as exemplified by Howard's dismissive 'black armband' view of that history. They have every reason to stridently question current actions and inactions and attitudes within government; and the undeniable racism still rife within the general community. They face so many seemingly intractable problems of community, health and basic welfare and have no security, as demonstrated by the recent casual unlawful destruction of ancient sacred sites by mining interests.
“I have no difficulty whatsoever should those responsible for protecting the intellectual property inherent in all forms of Aboriginal Australian art decide to question my motives and actions when I conceived the design some forty years ago. Although unstated at the time, as I wrote in my little essay on the logo's origins, I had been carefully respectful in my approach, not copying an original image, but offering only an interpretation of the style. And as I pointed out in my later commentary, as far as I was aware in the 1970s there was no Indigenous entity with which I could discuss or seek approval of my intentions”.