Banned Books Decoder Poster

We had the opportunity to use design as both informer and enabler, reminding people of how precious their rights are and giving them the means to exercise them in the same process.

– John Earles, Designer

When you get right down to it, the urge to ban a creative work comes from a deep-seated fear that artist and audience are somehow in on a joke that’s far beyond your understanding; in other words, a conspiracy.

The devious minds at Spindletop Design plugged into this psychology beautifully with the creation of an innocuous-looking 2-color sheet they designed to celebrate Banned Books Week, in collaboration with Houston bookstore Brazos Books and Workhorse Printmakers.

While emblazoned with such Orwellian platitudes as “Freedom is Slavery” and “Ignorance is Strength” on the surface, looking through the red lens of a tear-off decoder reveals far more subversive messages, such as “Ignite your mind, read banned books.”

As designer John Earles explains, “Getting the secret message to work correctly was definitely a highlight. We needed to balance the saturation of the two colors to fully obscure the message without the lens, but fully cancel the overlapping red pattern through it. With a bit of trial and error we found a solution which worked effectively.”

The letterpress printing of the poster on 160 lb. Mohawk Superfine only adds to the subversive feeling of it all – everyone knows Big Brother favors offset when he’s not otherwise eavesdropping on our digital doings.

“Print has always been a revolutionary force,” says Earles. “In the current times of digital surveillance, the idea that you can disseminate ideas in your private space and far from the eyes of government watchers is as powerful an equalizing force as at any point in history.”

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Project Details

Title Banned Books Decoder Poster Client Brazos Bookstore Date October 2014 Design Spindletop Design Print Workhorse Printmakers Houston, TX Paper Mohawk Superfine
160 lb. Cover DT

Production Details

Dimensions 10.5 x 8" Print Quantity Approximately 250 Production Time One week Printing Method Letterpress Number of Colors 2 colors Finishing and Binding Diecut, perforated




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