Jonathan Barnbrook is a graphic designer, typographer, logo designer and film-maker. He is also an activist who is highly aware of the influence graphic designers have on the world.
He has created a number of fonts, mostly through his company VirusFonts. The name of the company is based in a number of quotes: “Language is a virus from outer space” (William Burroughs), “Style is a virus, we only need one typeface” (Neville Brody). VirusFonts also uses the phenomenon of computer viruses as a metaphor for the subversive power of typography.
He expressed subversive attitude in a piece entitled “Designers, stay away from corporations that want you to lie for them”. This work used slices of different advertising pictures with differing typefaces to spell out the titular message. This is also one Jonathan Barnbrook’s favourite graphic methods, that of detournement (“turning expressions of the capitalist system against itself.”).
Jonathan’s fonts are distinctive, emotive and in in addition to their unusual form, they often have controversial names mirroring a dystopian view, with such examples as “Newspeak”, “Doublethink”, “Echelon”, “False Idol”, “Prozac” and “State Machine”.
The form of these fonts is unconventional, yet harmonious. Jonathan uses suggestive questioning forms in the anatomy of fonts he creates, from the lowered cross of his T‘s (making them resemble an iron/pagan cross (+) rather than the Christian one (t), through to his O‘s which are reminiscent of cross-hairs. He creates fonts from various inspirational material, such as the typefaces of religious pamphlets and pornography, communist state lettering, renaissance and medieval scripts and military lettering.
Jonathan Barnbrook reminds us that we can have ethics in what we do, and that as graphic designers we must be remember that the images and memes we produce influence millions. And he does this as effectively with the fonts he creates as he does with the messages that they spell.