ZXX: a language to articulate our “non-freedom”


Even if it dates back to May 2002, the project of Korean designer Sang Mun has received a new and truly actual meaning in light of the recent scandal involving NSA—US National Security Agency—and the US government.

Briefly, ZXX is a typeface able to generate limitless alphabetic versions, each one possessing the ability to elude Optical Character Recognition applications—OCR. ZXX’s name is taken from the Library of Congress’ three letter codes defining the language employed in a text—precisely the ZXX code means “No linguistic content; Not applicable”.

How Sang Mun himself explains, the design of the typeface hides a reflection more than ever actual—and critical—concerning the issue of privacy and of the big monopolies handling a large amount of private information. The project, in addition to having an indisputable practical value, thus raises extremely urgent questions concerning the political value of design—but even simply of a typeface: “How can design be used politically and socially for the codification and de-codification of people’s thoughts? What is a graphic design that is inherently secretive? How can graphic design reinforce privacy? And, really, how can the process of design engender a proactive attitude towards the future — and our present for that matter?”. The Korean designer’s reflection begins with a quotation from the philosopher Zizek: “We feel free because we lack the language to articulate our unfreedom”. ZXX is first of all an example of a design practice able to articulate our un-freedom condition.

ZXX can be freely downloaded here.