Newspeak is a display typeface based on the architectural forms of Stalinist Russia, presented with a decadent visual language and a sinister political undertone. Stalinist architecture is now considered to be unsightly yet it contains a strange beauty, hinting at an unrealised utopia. The irony is that this kind beauty was deployed to enforce a brutal dictatorship. Inspiration was also drawn from the Cyrillic alphabet which was for a long time the code for an alternative way of living – the enclosed universe of communism. When you visited a communist country you were confronted with unfamiliar typography that reinforced your sense of alienation and the feeling that there was an alternative to consumerism.
The name Newspeak comes from the fictional language in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. It is a controlled language created by the totalitarian state Oceania as a tool to limit freedom of thought, and therefore to prevent citizens from thinking outside the approved political ideology. The notion is that if words to not exist to describe a concept, then that concept cannot be imagined. Newspeak represses concepts that pose a threat to the regime such as freedom, self-expression, individuality and peace. The name was chosen as an acknowledgement of how typography, as a representation of language, can communicate the subtle nuances of thought.
The poster published to accompany the typeface release featured a picture of Tony Blair. There was an obvious connection between the language of Newspeak and the way in which New Labour manipulated the media to control the image of Tony Blair and to present neoliberal policies as being social-democratic.