Occupy Monospace
by Aaron Gillett, Luke Robertson

AustraliaQueensland College of Art, Griffith University
Published online
March 20, 2014

For this assignment students write their own brief. They are encouraged to create a typeface. Tutor: Jason Grant

Aaron and Luke explain: “After research into the supporting visual language that was developing alongside the Occupy Wall Street movement, it was clear there was a great lack of cohesion and quality in the visual messages being communicated. A monospaced display typeface was developed as an offering towards a visual common ground for the occupiers.

“The movement’s diversity is of course one of it’s central strengths and characteristics, so the typeface is not intended as a kind of brand homogenisation, rather a visual equivalent of the unifying verbal devices used by the occupier’s, such as their very nomenclature (Occupy New York, Occupy Brisbane etc) and slogans like ‘we are the 99%’.

“Selected type specimens were overprinted on copies of the stridently conservative, News Corp. owned paper, The Australian. The newspaper effectively became ‘occupied’ with the existing design adopting critical new meanings. The overprinted type specimens were pasted up in public spaces. These specimens contained quotes sourced from Occupy Wall Street protest signs found in various occupations around the world.”

Monospaced or fixed width letterforms, created as they were in the analogue era to enable a predictable distance before the impression of the next letter, are technically redundant. The efficiencies of digitisation means typefaces with proportional spacing now rule. However the aesthetic virtue of the monospaced typeface perseveres. The inversion of typographic hierarchy whereby a monospaced body font ‘occupies’ the role of a display face is also a metaphor for the movement’s political aims. The relatively generic letterforms allow the parasitical subversion of found propaganda with carefully considered overprinting.

  1. Guest comment
    by Jonathan Barnbrook

    very happy that you have thought deeply about the role of a unified voice in the occupy movement and i note your discussion about ‘branding’. you have raised a very interesting issue. often people use it as a way to be cynical about activist organisations or the likes of adbusters: ‘they are just a brand aren’t they’, implying that they are simply out to sell people their ‘stuff’ or to be well known. it’s really tiresome. there is nothing wrong with certain aims behind the ‘brand’: to speak with a unified voice, this relates as much to organised labour movement as to multinationals. one of the differences is intent. do you want to sell people stuff they don’t need from a sweatshop? or are you seeking to truly make the world a better place? so you are absolutely right to pick up on this and aim for a unified voice.

    when you are working with a movement with political focus i feel you have to go further to not just think about its visual look, but more practically consider how it will be used. you have solved a visual problem of a unified voice, just as important however is the logistical side of how people access it and use it. i would propose that it is clear that it is a free font to be used by everybody and should be released as such on a website (this may have happened already). designers are good at solving aesthetic problems but there is also the notion when working in such areas that they should stick to ideas of copyright (possibly also to protect the unifying intent). there should be a further ‘kit’ of basic guidelines, size of headline, why you want it printed on existing printed ephemera. plus directions on how to use it with other fonts.

    you have understood the tone of voice absolutely about the occupy movement. the letterforms have a sense of urgency, a boldness that stands out in a crowded visual world. they have the sense of ‘protest’ necessary to communicate that this is subversive, however i do think, you have to think a little wider and more about the overall context of the occupy movement. (i am not suggesting you change the font, merely that this is a thought for the tackling of a future project). is it the best approach to look like a protest movement? one of the things that has distinguished the occupy movement is the number of designers that have been willing to get involved, and that it is not merely a ‘left’ movement. it involves people from all walks of life. so possibly graphics which are at the level of the major political organisations are more in order (i know a lot of them are terrible) but the exact opposite approach could be just as valid.

    about the aesthetic of the letters. i can’t help thinking that maybe there could be a little more that denotes what it would be used for. some influence a little more in the forms. i don’t know what it would be, just that it is possible in typography to say quite a lot by just changing things a little. at the moment i can’t see other than the interesting ‘O’ that there is anything that relates to financial or conservative forces.

    finally i do think it’s a great achievement to draw a font, many people talk about doing it, but you have actually done it. it is very pleasing visually and is a step forward for these kind of graphics, so very well done for taking on this project and understanding some of the fundamentals. despite a few shortcomings i think the typeface is great, its usage in your images is excellent and your explanation is cohesive, well thought out and intelligently written.

  1. Comment
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    April 1, 2014

    [...] The project stemmed out of creating a unified monospaced display typeface for the Occupy movement. Check out more samples of the work here. Via Design [...]

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    by MORE RESEARCH & THOUGHTS – sevenwords.typography.com
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    [...] http://typolitic.com/occupy-monospace/ [...]

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    October 15, 2021

    [...] mm, unique, (KM2018-04)(https://wilfriedlentz.com) Occupied Mono, Luke Robertson and Aaron Gillett. Concept & Process on typeolitic.com jekyll & hyde,greetings card with augmented [...]

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