Unfound Studio designs protest-inspired identity for Systemic Justice

The identity features a unique logotype inspired by the Memphis Sanitation Strike of 1968 and a secondary typeface informed by posters used in racially charged protests in the early 1900s.

Unfound Studio has devised an identity for non-governmental organisation Systemic Justice, driven by a “non-violent” typeface and a suite of graphic devices.

The Netherlands-based non-for-profit partners with organisations working on racial, social and economic justice and aims to help them bring about change through strategic litigation. Unfound client director Tebo Mpanza describes the brief was “both challenging and inspiring” as the studio was tasked with designing an identity “that captures the urgency of their cause and the need for change”. Since Systemic Justice is “not separate from the movements and causes” it supports, Mpanza says the strategy for the identity was “led by the community’s vision, not the law”.

The aim was to make litigation “seriously accessible” with a strategy centred around “agility and adaptability”, he adds. Balancing “the maturity of a law firm” with “the seriousness of the topics covered” while remaining accessible was a challenge, says Unfound creative director Jay Topham.

It was crucial to “broaden access to judicial remedies and shine a light on opportunities for marginalised communities, while also galvanising everyday people to get involved”, he explains.

One of the brand’s standout features is the logotype, which uses a “non-violent typeface” called Martin, inspired by the Memphis Sanitation Strike of 1968 and designed by Vocal Type, a Black-owned type foundry, according to Mpanza.

On 12 February 1968, Memphis bin workers – “most of whom were black” – went on strike to demand “recognition for their union, better wages and safer working conditions after two workers were tragically killed by a malfunctioning bin lorry”, Mpanza explains. He says the “unique style” of the Martin typeface “not only pays homage to this historic moment but also symbolises Systemic Justice’s commitment to peaceful yet unwavering change”.

Recommended: Wolff Olins flips junk food marketing on its head for activist group identity

Din Neuzeit Grotesk Pro was chosen to be Systemic Justice’s secondary typeface. Topham reveals how, like the logotype, the tall, condensed type was “influenced by posters used in racially charged protests in the early 1900s”.

He says it was chosen to give communications “personality and add extra impact” to words. The Systemic Justice type family also includes a “digital-first” sans serif type, used to tell “more professional stories as the brand flexes across platforms”, Topham adds.

Recommended: Templo designs “Syrian-led” identity and website for Free Syria’s Disappeared

A comma symbol acts as Systemic Justice’s central icon and forms part of the logo. Topham explains how it signifies “bringing options to the table”, such as “new people, new causes, new organisations and new ideas”. He adds that the icon is also used on communications to “signpost” the brand and is “key to its tone of voice”.

Other graphic devices, including an arrow, a corner triangle, and a cloud, are also implemented across the identity. Unfound looked to created “a layered concept” for the graphic system, in a bid to position the brand as “a unifier or connector” while being inclusive of the many voice sit represents, according to Topham.

The arrow shape aims to provide “direction and growth”, says Topham, while the corner triangle was designed to represent Systemic Justice’s “scaling impact” and the “community cloud” represents “the power of collective efforts”. The shapes are used in two ways across the identity.

Topham explains how they are “layered on top of each other to elevate a hero element in the communication”, such as a team member or a statement. They can also be used to “create structure, building complete communication by slotting together in an organised way”, he reveals.

The brand is always adapting, always shifting, just like the cause”, says Topham, so the studio had to devise a tone of voice that was “always on the go”. This is where the comma device was useful, as Topham says it allowed the studio to “keep adding, building and anticipating” with short sentences and words that “build up to a greater point or stance”.

Start the discussionStart the discussion
  • Post a comment

Latest articles

From the archives: Picture Post

As we head back into our archives, here’s a gem from March 1990. Jane Lewis looks at the creative ways design firms promoted their services through mail-outs.