A newspaper for the times

This week the Occupy London movement published the eighth edition of its newspaper, The Occupied Times of London. We talked to one of the paper’s designers, Tzortzis Rallis, about how the paper is produced, the aesthetics of protest and how corporate branding played a part in visualising the aims of this new political force

Issue 8 of The Occupied Times of London

This week the Occupy London movement published the eighth edition of its newspaper, The Occupied Times of London. We talked to one of the paper’s designers, Tzortzis Rallis, about how the paper is produced, the aesthetics of protest and how corporate branding played a part in visualising the aims of this new political force…

The back cover of issue 4, which references the pink paper of the Financial Times

On Wednesday evening Rallis was on hand at the launch of the latest issue of The Occupied Times of London to help with folding the 2,000 copies ready for distribution around the St Pauls and Finsbury Square sites. Since the first OTL came out in October last year (we blogged about it here), Rallis and co-designer Lazaros Kakoulidis have taken the newspaper from a folded A3 publication to a 20-page weekly edition.

Volunteers at the London Stock Exchange occupation site putting issue 8 together

Rallis and Kakoulidis both originally studied in Greece and came to the UK to undertake Masters degrees at the London College of Communication. Ironically, Rallis explains, it was the Greek recession that motivated them to travel and after freelancing post-LCC, it was a call to arms tweeted by the editor of a soon-to-be-published Occupy London newspaper that prompted them to volunteer their design skills.

Putting issue 6 together

After an initial meeting, Rallis and Kakoulidis were quickly put in charge of developing the look of the newspaper – and had 40 hours before the first issue was to set to publish. “It was very quick,” says Rallis, “as we had to come up with and propose the design within that time. We asked if they wanted it to be as radical as the movement and, in the beginning, we made something that was far too crazy. So it became more important to appeal to a wider audience.”

Covers of issue 5

While the designers recognised that the paper needed to represent Occupy London in print, they were keen to design something that would be accessible to people who weren’t necessarily familiar with the movement. Too many protest graphics, says Rallis, are designed to talk only to those already involved in political movements. Equally, a definitive identity, coupled with well designed communications material, gives a movement added authority and weight.

“Protest collectives are often limited in terms of their communications,” says Rallis, “and in the mainstream media they are often presented incorrectly, even as terrorists in some cases. But graphic design is a way to make people realise that these movements are not like that, that you can present the cause in a better way and make it more approachable to different people.”

Pages from issue 8

So while the language of the broadsheet was largely adhered to in terms of structure, headlines, body copy etc, the use of type was where the design really came into its own. And being in the capital city became a starting point for the design work. “Because we were in London we wanted to reference punk, the DIY and ‘zine cultures, and balance a strong graphic approach with the language of newspapers,” says Rallis.

From issue 8

As we reported in October, the designers made use of two distinct typefaces in the paper: Bastard, by Jon Barnbrook, and PF Din Mono, designed by Athens studio, Parachute.

The former, provocative in its charged references to Blackletter; the latter the accepted typeface of many mainstream corporations, businesses and banks. Sitting the two together – in fact, placing single letters set in Bastard ‘within’ the Din typeface for headlines – chimed cleverly with the ‘occupying’ metaphor. But there was another point to make, says Rallis. “Brands are now using the visual language of protest themselves, with stencils etc, to promote their products – they stole that language – so we are stealing theirs.”

Back cover/placard print from issue 6. Letters set in Bastard are placed in wording set in Din Mono

For the first issue, the designers needed to get hold of the type fast. “I said we should just use Bastard without asking!” says Rallis who had previously interned at Barnbrook and also freelances for the studio. “Then we sent the issue to Jon and he was very happy with it and asked if we needed more help.”

Rallis adds that using Bastard came with its reservations, however, from both journalists working on the paper and some of its readers. “But Jon volunteered to come in and talk to the journalists about why the typeface was appropriate to the project,” says Rallis, “convincing them it should be something we used. Then he sent us a new logo for the movement, too.” The logo, shown below, was chosen via an online poll.

Alongside this new identity, funding has also been sourced online via Sponsume, and this has so far raised over £2,000 to keep the newspaper going. Rallis now hopes to set up a “working designers network” with other designers like Barnbrook who can be called upon to work on briefs for the movement. Budget constraints have driven much of what Rallis and Kakoulidis have been able to do to date, but the newspaper’s success has meant that there is real potential for further development.

“First of all, we try just to keep it alive, because it’s very difficult to produce,” says Rallis. “We always want more things – something like the ‘revolutionary’ crossword we added, a small detail like that makes the paper more accessible. Maybe we can even have subscriptions soon, as we know that people from all over the UK are interested in reading it.”

The Occupied Times of London is available from the current occupations in the churchyard of St Paul’s Cathedral (next to the London Stock Exchange) and Finsbury Square, EC2. Copies can also be downloaded as PDFs from theoccupiedtimes.co.uk. Tzortzis Rallis’s website is at bricktz.com.

  • dominic

    Looks interesting, I might pop down and check it out for myself.

  • melb_c

    Great stuff … is it just me or does the typography have a distinctively 1930s Germany about it?

  • Mark Sinclair

    Thanks for the comment. Yes, I think it certainly references fascism in part. Here’s Barnbrook’s take on Bastard, from the page at Virus Fonts (http://www.virusfonts.com/fonts/bastard):

    “Bastard is a blackletter font drawn with a contemporary eye. Historic forms have been reinterpreted using a set of modular parts and a new aesthetic appropriate to the contemporary technology it was produced on. In recent history these kinds of letterforms have been identified with the Nazis but blackletter type has been central to the development of typography for over five hundred years. The name ‘Bastard’ confronts these fascist associations but also refers to its historic basis. Firstly it is not a pure ‘textur’ or ‘fraktur’ font, a ‘bastard’ version of a blackletter face. There is also a blackletter font called ‘bastarda’ which was around in the 15th or 16th century. In letterpress when a letterform from the wrong font got into a piece of setting it was called ‘bastard type’. Lastly, once designed, Bastard seemed to take on a fascist personality because of its modernity it seemed to relate very strongly to the letterforms used by the Nazi party. All Nazis or people associated with fascism are of course bastards so the name stuck to highlight and work against this association.”

  • Chris Venables

    They look great, how do those of us outside the capital get hold of copies of the paper?

  • Really worth while project, the design is great! Would be nice to see the paper appear in an online/iPhone/iPad format soon – would really help push the message further.

    Totally behind the Occupy movement, and it’s something that is only going to grow as the economic environment gets worse in the coming months/years.

    Can see this being a really powerful design movement – making us use our skills in a more creative & ethical way. Sounds a bit cheesy but as designers we really can make a difference and bring about positive social change.

    First time in a long time ‘We the People’ can have an influence on how things are, rather than just being told what to do by the elite.

    Exciting/challenging times ahead.

  • Andrew Robey

    We are working on this project with our second year students, taking inspiration in part, from your committed
    stance and typo / graphic punching power. Keep up the good work.

    Andrew Robey

    Middlesex University / Year 2 Motion Graphic workshop / Blended News

  • scrap the “Neoliberalism” crossword and put in a “letters / comments / opinion / shout out section. There’s no space for individual points of veiw…or is that the point. And what was the remark re. the paper being ; “…more than JUST propaganda rag?” strange use of description. What about having a print out of tweets and emails.

  • the graphics of the font used is very original, although it is clear a “crossover” styles .. does anyone know if the font is available for download?
    PS. sorry, my English is very poor :-)