The letter Z has become a symbol to support Putin’s Ukraine invasion. It was originally seen on Russian military vehicles and personnel and has since become a common pro-war symbol used also by the civilians, media and businesses supporting the unjustified aggression towards Ukraine.
Finnish-South African designer-duo, typographers Eino Korkala and Daniel Coull, and part of creative collective, Counterstroke, learned that a simple dash over the letter Z can reverse the meaning of the militarist “Z”-symbol. Inspired by this fact, they’ve crafted blueprints of an additional character and are now urging the biggest type foundries to integrate this character into their popular font families such as Caslon, Clarendon, Goudy and Times.
The new letter designs are released as a free-to-download instructional poster and a printed shirt carrying the same visual instructions to spread the anti-war message. Eino Korkala and Dan Coull’s typeface designs are part of a larger creative collective, Counterstroke, supporting Ukrainian relief efforts.
”Typography never developed or stood independent of cultural climate. Calligraphy continued to influence typographic styles long after the invention of the printing press. The written letter still influences digital type today. Typography has also been used both as the weapon, and the target, in cultural wars. Typesetting in Fraktur became a collateral victim of politics once it gained ideological connotations in the early 20th century Germany. Fraktur was eventually discarded even by the Nazi party themselves, leaving this historic style with very few fans. The idea of discarding an entire letter is absurd, of course. But as we’ve learned, typography has always reacted to its surroundings and will continue to do so. For this project we decided to say a farewell to the last letter of the Western Alphabet, for the reasons that could’ve been described dystopian a few months ago,” explained Eino Korkala.
The two type-designers previously created an open-source font visualising the urgency of climate change. The Climate Crisis Font is currently on display at Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum in NYC as a part of the museum’s Responsive Collecting Initiative.
A virtual gallery at www.counterstroke.one shows a wide range of art pieces and products counter-branding the militarist ”Z” symbol. Included also are instructions for individuals, organisations and brands to join the community of visual resistance.
”This is definitely one context where the often controversial cancel-culture should be applied to – to strip an aggressor of his means to brand and spread poisonous propaganda. But this project takes magnitude and momentum to succeed and that’s why we wish to inspire and engage creators and cultural influencers in all walks of life. I can’t imagine the entire Gen Z nor Jay-Z for example being too excited about the connotations “their letter” now has. This is everybody’s chance to join the fight,” commented Jyrki Poutanen from United Imaginations, one of the organising companies behind the collective.
At the moment the #counterstroke community consists of Eino’s and Dan’s typographical blueprints, several NFT art pieces, graffiti works, posters, craft beers, printed shirts and various other digital and physical works of art. All participants are committed to either donate direct funds to Ukraine and/or to equip and inspire individuals, businesses, brands and organisations with visual ideas and assets to express their stand against the ”Z-brand” and the human rights violations and war crimes taking place in Ukraine.
The art, products and more information about joining the movement can be found at www.counterstroke.one. NFT artwork is also auctioned at https://foundation.app/collection/csz. The t-shirt carrying Eino’s and Dan’s designs can be purchased here.