The Null Device

2007/9/24

img 0205 This afternoon, I made my way to the Design Museum in London to see Friendly Fire: The Graphic Design of Jonathan Barnbrook. Barnbrook is probably best known for his fonts, particularly Ma(n)son Serif, a.k.a. "that 90s goth/metal/occult font" (last seen on a package of "sinfully delicious" cheesecake or somesuch; presumed dead of overexposure). He also did a lot of political/protest work, including design for Adbusters magazine and surreptitious flyposting during Bush's visit to London, and some of these works were on show at the exhibition, along with context.

There were examples of fonts he had designed, the influences he drew on (Barnbrook is a keen historian of vernacular design, and many of his fonts refer to bits of it — from Edward Johnston's Underground type to Yugoslavian Communist brand lettering to the Lindisfarne Gospels), along with related context (such as how Mason was originally named Manson, but Emigre renamed it after being deluged with letters of protest, and Barnbrook's surprise at how Exocet was used by a neo-Nazi group for its website). There were also examples of more recent typefaces, which included NixonScript (a "font to tell lies with"), Expletive (a cursive font with two sets of forms, one which goes above the base line and one below), Prozac (a font made up of just six shapes in various rotations) and the Shock & Awe series), and a set of alternative Olympic symbols named "Olympukes" (and free for non-commercial use), with symbols for things like bribery, reinforcement of oppressive regimes and ridiculous made-up sports. There was also a section of artwork riffing off North Korean propaganda art and mashing it up with Western commercial design (such as Kim Jong Il as Colonel Sanders; in some ways, this was a little like Banksy's "Santa's Ghetto" salon, only with better design/more thought/less punk-rock attitude).

The exhibition is on until the 10th of October, if you're interested in this sort of thing.

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2007/9/23

As America digs in for the long siege, there is now a high school specialising in "Homeland Security"-related subjects:

The new school is funded and guided by a slew of federal, state, and local agencies, not to mention several defense firms. Officials say it will teach kids to understand the "new reality," though they hasten to add that the school isn't focused just on terrorism. School administrators, channeling Cheneyesque secrecy, refused to be interviewed for this story. But it's no secret that the program is seen as a model for the rest of the country, with the Pentagon and other agencies watching closely.
Students will choose one of three specialized tracks: information and communication technology, criminal justice and law enforcement, or "homeland security science." David Volrath, executive director of secondary education for Harford County Public Schools, says the school also hopes to offer "Arabic or some other nontraditional, Third World-type language."
However, it's not clear how many Joppatowne grads will be on track to join the upper echelons of the intelligence community and how many will wind up as airport screeners. "We do want to encourage higher education," Volrath says. "We also want to be realistic. Some of these defense contractors will have huge security needs, and the jobs won't require four years of college."

(via Boing Boing) military-industrial complex paranoia the long siege the shock doctrine usa war without end 0

Last night, I went to see the film Hallam Foe. I quite enjoyed it.

The film concerns its eponymous protagonist, a teenaged boy in rural Scotland, who spends most of his time in a treehouse watching people through binoculars, can pick locks and is convinced that his stepmother murdered his beloved mother (who drowned in the loch some time earlier). After an argument, he leaves for Edinburgh, where he becomes fascinated with a woman who looks like his mother, follows her and gets a job at the hotel she works at; much of the film concerns the complicated relationship between Hallam and her. The main characters of this film were interestingly complex and the character development and plotting avoided the usual Hollywood clichés that weaken so many films; despite one or two improbable events, the film seemed like a plausibly realistic. One could call it a "modern-day fairytale", I suppose; or perhaps the offspring of Amélie and one of the Belle & Sebastian songs with a vaguely sinister subtext beneath its surface?

By the end, it was a bittersweet sort of film; optimistic though not saccharine. It was also beautifully shot (they made good use of the Scottish landscape and the central parts of Edinburgh where it is set), the soundtrack was superb, and the titles by David Shrigley (in all his eccentric glory) were a nice touch.

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