Type and the Spirit of our Times

The first step

At the beginning I struggled to find a news regarding something I care and I could talk about, a problem which is occurring at the moment and involves different people or even an entire nation. I knew what I wanted my work to be about so I started my research exploring different national broadcasting media websites such as BBC News, CNN and The New York Times. On the BBC’s YouTube channel I came across a video titled “Virginia TV news crew shot dead on air” which to be honest it initially didn’t grab my attention as I was used to listen news reporting these kind of events which nowadays they unluckily occur too often. Nevertheless, I could look beyond the simple news, I was already thinking how I could have developed a statement beginning from this specific occurrence. Therefore I decided to start my research.

Virginia TV news crew shot dead on air – BBC News

I listened the news few times trying to capture and write down useful words and phrases using black ink, which was practical to give contrast between the most significant information and the less important.


Deep in the topic

The news, that talks about two TV presenters shot dead during a live interview in the U.S., Virginia, made me reflect about the current gun laws situation in the United States. Beside this incident other many mass shootings have happened during Obama’s presidency and so why has nothing changed yet? Which are the obstacles that stop the President Obama to pass a law about guns?, I asked myself.

I sought information to answer these questions mainly from the BBC website.

Why Obama is powerless to reform gun laws

Obama admits US gun laws are his ‘biggest frustration’ 

By donating money into the Political Victory Fund the National Rifle Association (N.R.A) supports the election of pro-gun politicians which influence most of the lobby groups in Washington. Therefore it is easy to understand how money plays an important role in the future of the American people’s life. The N.R.A also tries to protect the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution that reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”.

The National Rifle Association is the main reason why Obama is powerless to reform gun laws. He says it himself that he feels frustrated that an advanced nation as the United States of America does not have sufficient common sense gun safety laws even after repeated gun violence events.


To better illustrate what has really happened during 6 years of Obama’s presidency, I created a graph which shows all the mass killings relevant details including for each event the sentence o words I found most significative, taken from the speeches which Obama holds after that a tragedy occurs.

IMG_1112Combining different materials such as white leather which forms background and a red wool twine I could create the base of my graph that I then completed with the addition of text. The question mark situated at the end of the graph questions: “what will happen next?” to express an unclear future that, for now is not likely to change.

To push myself out of my comfort zone I decided to try a different technique of design, using black ink which I am absolutely not good at it. The idea of the work is to communicate a message to the viewer, to aware him of the situation of the United States of America regarding gun laws. Therefore I made a poster using nothing more than ink a sponge and a paper cutter. The final piece didn’t work, it had no meaning, so I scanned it, cropped it and worked on it with typefaces on Illustrator. The idea wasn’t bad, the final result was decent but it still didn’t convince me.

IMG_1115  Gun Laws2

An idea, the idea

I wanted to represent how I personally see the current situation regarding gun laws in the United States of America and their relationship with the people who got involved in gun shootings. The concept had to be direct, simple but powerful, which captures the viewer attention. Thus, after several attempts and failures, I came up with an idea I found appropriate for this project. Taking inspiration from the concept of a game called Jenga, which expresses instability and anxiety while being played I created a similar version of it which, as an illustration to insert into a poster I thought it would have been perfect to represent the problem I was trying to express.

The process

The wooden tower is composed of 26 black bricks and a red one located at the bottom. On the main facade of the black bricks, the quotations of the survivor/witness who got involved in the mass shooting were printed in white as well as the date and location when those tragic events occurred. These bricks represent the fear of the American citizens that, with the N.R.A (represented by the red brick at the bottom of the tower) form an unstable system, a Nation ready to fall down, only supported by the President, Barack Obama. The font used for the quotations is Helvetica bold, easily readable, direct and neutral, perfect for this role.

After I watched several interviews of the gun shooting survivors I decided to write down the quotes I found most significative and that better express fear to capture the attention of the viewer.

Sources of the quotations:

“The first shot hit me in the face and it went down into my throat”

“He was there to shot black people”

“I honestly can’t think of any kind of person who would intentionally hurt a little girl”

“He was so nonchalant… like he was playing a videogame and showed no emotion”

“I was just terrifying, I was having a hard time breathing”

“This is probably the worst day in the history of this town”

“We got down on the floor… start trying to find other people”

“I saw a laser coming across my eyes”

“She tried to climb back on the wheelchair and then he shot her”

Here below a quick step by step process on how I made it:

IMG_0783I firstly planned how I wanted the tower to look like and then I numerated each brick to remember the sequence. After that I started applying 3 layers of black paint to the wood to create contrast between it and the white text I applied later on. For the brick located at the bottom of the tower I cut and stuck red adhesive paper.

The colour black represents fear, the fear the people experienced during the shootings while the red of the N.R.A. brick symbolises alert, danger.


After tracing on paper the shape of the wood bricks which face the viewer, using Illustrator I filled them in black and then added the quotations.

Scan    wood text 2-01    DSC_0007

To finish I stuck the quotes I had printed before to the wood and built the tower ready to be photographed. After trying different shooting angles I got the shot I was looking for so that I could start to use Photoshop and InDesign to edit the Photograph and add the remaining text. Initially the idea was to keep the American flag as background but then I decided to remove it since the white and red stripes would have made the text difficult to read because of their strong contrast.

DSC_0140 gunlawswithhand2

Before and after the use of Photoshop. The American flag in the background was removed and some colours were made darker to make the text more readable.

The final poster

After using Photoshop I started to work with InDesign. I applied a 5mm on each side and then I created a golden rectangle which helped me as a guide to position the headline, image and the captions.

gunlaws goldensection.jpg

The golden rectangle here highlighted helped me through the layout of the poster.

Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 15.45.41

The headline had to be made with a massive, bold, “shouting” font to get the attention of the viewer. I had to choose between five different fonts, Helvetica Bold, Futura Condensed ExtraBold, Gill Sands Bold, Impact and NewsGothic LT Bold. I chose Futura Condensed because to me it seemed the most appropriate for the headline.

For the captions I used Gill Sans. I increased the leading to make it more pleasant to read and better looking. In other parts of the text I also had to increase the space between two capital letters since they almost form a one single new word.

The final poster:

gunlaws poster.jpg

On the other side of the leaflet I wanted to give more details about the topic of fire guns in the U.S.. GUN NUMBERS and PUBLIC OPINION ON GUN LAWS are two subject matters I researched about. I consulted several websites and books to acquire more, detailed information and to get statistics to create the two graphs.

The first one shows where all the mass shooting since the 2005 to present occurred providing basic information about the name of the city, the state in which it is located, date and how many people were killed and injured.

The second chart, a lot simpler reports the data of the same survey conducted in the different years. The increased percentage on December 2012 tells us how the public opinion about the introduction of stricter gun laws changed after yet another mass shooting.


Information sources:


The Huffington Post: Connecticut Gun Control Law Sharply Reduced Gun-Related Violence, Report Says

CNN: Death and guns in the USA: The story in six graphs

Council on Foreign Relations: U.S. Gun Policy: Global Comparisons

PewResearchCenter: A minority of Americans own guns, but just how many is unclear

ABC News: United States gun violence debate: a look at firearm laws and statistics

After I have been working on this project for more then 4 weeks the time to print the leaflet has arrived. Here below the final result.



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