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Gilbert is the only typeface that speaks of pride against the prejudice

B

arack Obama, the former President of the United States, didn’t hold back on the 28th of May 2010. “I call upon all Americans to observe this month by fighting prejudice and discrimination in their own lives and everywhere it exists” said Obama in the event of a month filled with pride and, unfortunately, lots and lots of prejudice, bigotry and injustice.  

June, officially named LGBT Pride month, was chosen for LGBT Pride Month to commemorate the Stonewall riots, which occurred at the end of June 1969. The riots (also referred to as the Stonewall uprising or the Stonewall rebellion) were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the gay (LGBT) community against a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City.

On June 28, 1970, the first gay pride marches took place in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago commemorating the anniversary of the riots. Today, Gay Pride events are held annually throughout the world to recognize the impact LGBT people have had in the world. Eight years later artist Gilbert Baker, a self-described “gay Betsy Ross” hand-dyed and stitched together eight strips of vibrantly colored fabric into a rainbow flag. He had just created an international symbol of gay pride,

“The first flags had eight colors, each stripe carrying its own significance: pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sun, green for nature, turquoise for magic, blue for peace and purple for spirit” reports New York Times.

“A flag translates into everything, from tacky souvenirs to the names of organizations and the way that flags function” Baker said in an interview in 2008. “I knew instantly when I saw the reaction that it was going to be something. I didn’t know what or how or — but I knew” he added.


Photo credits

Following the death of Gilbert Baker on the 31st of March, 2017, NewFest and NYC Pride partnered with Ogilvy & Mather’s design team and foundry Fontself to honor the LGBTQ activist and artist who was known for helping friends create banners for protests and marches. 

Their creation, a free font inspired by the design language of the iconic Rainbow Flag, was named 'Gilbert' after Mr. Baker. 

"We wanted to create something in memory of him, something that would celebrate his life but also celebrate the icon, which is the rainbow flag," said Ogilvy creative director Chris Rowson. "It's powerful because of the colours and the meaning behind each of the colours," he added. "That was the real inspiration; we wanted to celebrate something that he created that actually changed peoples' perception of that community."

Because Baker created his flag towards the end of the 1970s, the team wanted to represent the typography and graphic language of that era through their design. Rowson described the design process as "dissecting the flag", with the team pulling apart its colours and proportions to create simple, elongated rectangles.

The rectangles were then manipulated and overlaid to form each letter. Where the shapes cross over, colours are blended – a decision Rowson said was representative of the "open and fluid community".

"We liked the idea of that crossover and that overlay, it kind of creates new things," he said. "People aren't just one thing, they're not just gay, or not just transsexual, everyone can be a mixture of things."

"This is just the start of the project, we really want it to grow and would love to the see the font held high a rallies, marches and the upcoming Pride events," said the Rowson. "We're going to create contests for the design community to become involved and also eventually release a whole family of the font."

Baker's Rainbow Flag was added to the Museum of Modern Art's (MoMA) permanent collection in 2015. Paola Antonelli, senior curator of architecture and design at MoMA, told Dezeen then that the Rainbow Flag had served as a "politically powerful, meaningful, and also aesthetically effective symbol" for almost 40 years. "The creation of new symbols for a changing world is a significant way for design to give definition and direction to human life, and one of MoMA's goals is to acquire the art of our time," she said.

Baker refused to apply for a trademark for his creation. After all this was his gift to a world which marches with pride against all things wrong.

Ogilvy hopes the font will be used to create banners for rallies and protests, with users able to download it for free from the Type with Pride website.

The Type with Pride site also offers free downloadable artwork featuring the typeface.