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NSA Security Education Program poster series (1950s–1970s)

Contributed by Fonts In Use Staff on Jun 14th, 2018. Artwork published in
circa 1960
.
    Santa comes with a bag of confidential crypto secrets, and  Beton Open.
    Source: http://www.governmentattic.org License: All Rights Reserved.

    Santa comes with a bag of confidential crypto secrets, and Beton Open.

    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

    Light up your life with outlined and filled-in Neuland.
    Source: http://www.governmentattic.org License: All Rights Reserved.

    Light up your life with outlined and filled-in Neuland.

    This condensed Barnum with Tuscan spurs appears to be Photo-Lettering’s New Orleans, with its alternate A. The wide Clarendon at the bottom might be Volta.
    Source: http://www.governmentattic.org License: All Rights Reserved.

    This condensed Barnum with Tuscan spurs appears to be Photo-Lettering’s New Orleans, with its alternate A. The wide Clarendon at the bottom might be Volta.

    Memento mori for security agents. The condensed animated Latin comes very close to Filmotype Pelican. Chances are it’s lettering based on this 1950s film typeface.
    Source: http://www.governmentattic.org License: All Rights Reserved.

    Memento mori for security agents. The condensed animated Latin comes very close to Filmotype Pelican. Chances are it’s lettering based on this 1950s film typeface.

    Hellenic Wide + a typeface that goes back to the 1830s, see Caslon Rounded. The version that is used here could be Photo-Lettering’s Bowery, a film adaptation of ATF’s revival Old Bowery.
    Source: http://www.governmentattic.org License: All Rights Reserved.

    Hellenic Wide + a typeface that goes back to the 1830s, see Caslon Rounded. The version that is used here could be Photo-Lettering’s Bowery, a film adaptation of ATF’s revival Old Bowery.

    This scene from an early print shop is combined with a Textura that looks like a variety of Engravers Old English. The exact version hasn’t been determined yet, but do you have the need to know? Note that the eyes of the fellow of the left have been modified to cast a suspicious look on his colleague on the right.
    Source: http://www.governmentattic.org License: All Rights Reserved.

    This scene from an early print shop is combined with a Textura that looks like a variety of Engravers Old English. The exact version hasn’t been determined yet, but do you have the need to know? Note that the eyes of the fellow of the left have been modified to cast a suspicious look on his colleague on the right.

    Whether to pun or not? Having some Profil might come in handy on rainy streets. Sorry.
    Source: http://www.governmentattic.org License: All Rights Reserved.

    Whether to pun or not? Having some Profil might come in handy on rainy streets. Sorry.

    A sing-along poster with Futura Display set (up)tight. Named after Stevie Wonder’s Uptight (1965), James Brown’s Out Of Sight (1964) – or Out Of Sight, the 1966 movie?
    Source: http://www.governmentattic.org License: All Rights Reserved.

    A sing-along poster with Futura Display set (up)tight. Named after Stevie Wonder’s Uptight (1965), James Brown’s Out Of Sight (1964) – or Out Of Sight, the 1966 movie?

    If there’s one recurring type theme beyond generic grotesques and informal scripts, it’s Futura Display. Paul Renner’s design from 1932 appears in all lowercase, all caps, or set on an angle.
    Source: http://www.governmentattic.org License: All Rights Reserved.

    If there’s one recurring type theme beyond generic grotesques and informal scripts, it’s Futura Display. Paul Renner’s design from 1932 appears in all lowercase, all caps, or set on an angle.

    Is Rodin’s Thinker and all-caps Rustikalis a good combo? Think about it.
    Source: http://www.governmentattic.org License: All Rights Reserved.

    Is Rodin’s Thinker and all-caps Rustikalis a good combo? Think about it.

    Back in the days when NSA employees did not leave office without a soothing vault lock dial. Text set in Harry Obese (1966).
    Source: http://www.governmentattic.org License: All Rights Reserved.

    Back in the days when NSA employees did not leave office without a soothing vault lock dial. Text set in Harry Obese (1966).

    Ready for the 1970s with Bauhaus Prisma (c. 1970, link), pay-off set in Univers.
    Source: http://www.governmentattic.org License: All Rights Reserved.

    Ready for the 1970s with Bauhaus Prisma (c. 1970, link), pay-off set in Univers.

    Mona Lisa will not tell anyone why “SECRETs” ends with a lowercase s. Text set in Ronda (1970, with some alternate characters) and more Futura Display.
    Source: http://www.governmentattic.org License: All Rights Reserved.

    Mona Lisa will not tell anyone why “SECRETs” ends with a lowercase s. Text set in Ronda (1970, with some alternate characters) and more Futura Display.

    “Give a hoot! Don’t pollute.” The typeface is the bold weight of  ITC Machine (1970).
    Source: http://www.governmentattic.org License: All Rights Reserved.

    “Give a hoot! Don’t pollute.” The typeface is the bold weight of ITC Machine (1970).

    Zipper (1970) in space: “Is a badge enough?”
    Source: http://www.governmentattic.org License: All Rights Reserved.

    Zipper (1970) in space: “Is a badge enough?”

    Avant Garde Gothic (1970) vs. alcoholism. Later (digital) releases of Avant Garde Gothic have a flat-sided zero, this poster shows the initial design with its circular 0, similar to the O.
    Source: http://www.governmentattic.org License: All Rights Reserved.

    Avant Garde Gothic (1970) vs. alcoholism. Later (digital) releases of Avant Garde Gothic have a flat-sided zero, this poster shows the initial design with its circular 0, similar to the O.

    “Don’t blow your (mind) clearance on drugs”, aptly set in Shotgun (1972).
    Source: http://www.governmentattic.org License: All Rights Reserved.

    “Don’t blow your (mind) clearance on drugs”, aptly set in Shotgun (1972).

    Mum’s the word, and Tiffany’s the type. ITC Tiffany Heavy was designed by Ed Benguiat in 1974.
    Source: http://www.governmentattic.org License: All Rights Reserved.

    Mum’s the word, and Tiffany’s the type. ITC Tiffany Heavy was designed by Ed Benguiat in 1974.

    “Security fever” – poster from c. 1977 with rotated Eurostile (1962). Did everyone catch the reference?
    Source: http://www.governmentattic.org License: All Rights Reserved.

    “Security fever” – poster from c. 1977 with rotated Eurostile (1962). Did everyone catch the reference?

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