Black Lives Matter and MLKJr Day

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve updated anything on here but I thought I’d take this Martin Luther King Jr. Day to post up the Black Lives Matter translations I worked on back in Summer of 2020. Following the broadcast of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis on May 2020 and the global Black Lives Matter protests in response, in rapid movement many people, organizations, and even companies exercised support in the various ways they could despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The message that Black lives mattered had been tirelessly said for years and finally a mass movement was ignited in communities beyond social justice activists and the US. Black lives matter, too but heinous violence against Black people with no repercussions was witnessed around the world. It was overdue that the words “Black Lives Matter” and needed to be said, unequivocally heard, and visually seen.

A large part of the message “Black Lives Matter” are the words themselves, written and spoken. As I was thinking about those words I was thinking about some of the people in my community that don’t speak English as their primary language. With the help of fluent speakers and University of Washington Design Alumni group on Facebook I attempted to translate and reproduce the visual identity of the current Black Lives Matter organization. Being careful not to transform the phrase but also navigating languages totally different than English (well except for Spanish) really was an independent challenge from the production design. Once I had the translations that was accurate to the message I thought the designs of the square images for Instagram and other social media sites were set out for me. However, the production design was surprisingly difficult due to my unfamiliarity of the languages as well as typography of those written languages. The typeface for Black Lives Matter I found was called Cornerstone but to find a matching look in a different written language took patience as I couldn’t read anything on some of the font websites. Then there was the challenge of typesetting. With Hangul (Korean) the structure of the phrase was parallel to English but in simplified Chinese the phrase had to be structured differently. I happen to be vaguely familiar with East Asian languages and so I utilized the vertical text orientation of Chinese to stay consistent with the black bar that served as a visual bridge to “lives”. I think in social justice design flexibility is more important than consistent visual identity especially since the time constraints are dependent on a movement going forward as quickly as possible but as a designer I’m always trying to visually problem solve and neatly package up a solution when possible.

It has been a humbling experience to participate in Black Lives Matter protests and a real trip to see how virtual protesting has propagated through the ever changing social media and internet landscape. The odyssey to racial justice is an arduous one and must continue. Similarly, the ways we will protest and advocate will continually transform as the way we communicate is shaped by how we interact with technology and what technology is available. Dr. King fought for equality for all people and language, technology, and design and can be democratizing tools for the cause if we actively defend justice and contribute to equity.

My attempt to reproduce the Black Lives Matter visual identity for non-native English speaking social media user. Please feel free to use!

Typeface used:
English - Cornerstone
Hangul (Korean) - Do Hyeon Regular
Simplified Chinese - 小塚ゴシック Pro


Using Format