Over 100 motivational posters from inside NSA headquarters … have been revealed by a Freedom Of Information Act request, delivering a significant and penetrating strike into the canon of graphics design. — David Rudnick (Twitter)
These posters were intended to motivate and remind personnel of the National Security Agency (NSA) to work safe, secure and discrete. The sample comprises 136 posters from the collection (pdf). Although the accompanying statement mentions that they stem “from the 1950s and 1960s”, there are several that must be younger, as they are set with fonts released in the 1970s. The individual posters are not dated, but many are numbered.
Several of the designs border on the amateur, and include about every possible pun to be made about security, but the stylistic variety is nothing to sneeze at. It ranges from handwriting, brush lettering and copperplate scripts to Tuscans and Barnums, from gas-pipe sans serifs and stenciled grotesques to inscriptional capitals, blackletter, and more.
It’s fun to imagine that every season the poster committee at the NSA office was given an assignment, a bit of budget and some freedom. Can you picture them frantically leafing through the latest font catalogues, eager to add some personality to their job?
A good deal of the posters, especially those from the earlier years, don’t show any fonts in use, but lettering. Some are rather exceptional — like the medieval caps with bolt holes on page 114, or the weird faux Cyrillic (?) on page 54 — but can’t be included here as our focus is on prefabricated letterforms. Enjoy our small selection of posters that feature interesting typefaces or typography. — Florian & Matthijs