Pentagram’s Austin office was honored to collaborate with the founding members of the Anti-Racism Fund (ARF) and the new online publication “I AM Zine,” two partnering grassroots initiatives in service of the movement for Black lives and active allyship, to develop their brand identities and provide design support.
Pentagram, which has offered pro bono services to a number of important social causes over the years, jumped at the opportunity to assist the Anti-Racism Fund in their mission to create a response to the inequities experienced by the Black Community. The Anti-Racism Fund does this by providing capital from a pool of donations to a dynamic portfolio of curated organizations whose ethos align with their pillars of purpose: Justice System Reform, Education Parity, Health and Wellness Access, Community Outreach and Social Justice Advocacy.
Pentagram Austin’s design team created a new identity system for the Anti-Racism Fund including a set of wordmarks, custom icons and a distinctive visual signature. Pentagram also partnered with the I AM Zine team on the art direction, design and format of their online publication and social media posts and penned the zine’s original moniker.
The name I AM Zine is a direct reference to the historic sanitation workers strike that took place in Memphis in 1968. The protest was sparked by a horrific incident where two Black city employees perished while riding in a trash truck. The sanitation workers were riding in the back of the truck to escape a torrential rain. The men had been forced to work through the storm that had drenched the city for several days and during their ride home in the filthy, maggot infested trash truck the compactor was accidentally tripped and they were crushed to death.
That landmark protest in the streets of Memphis led to the assassination of Martin Luther King. The striking sanitation workers marched in the streets with signs declaring the simple, heart-wrenching message “I AM A MAN.” The masthead logo for I AM Zine and the wordmark for the Anti-Racism Fund are tied stylistically to the distinctive typography of those spare, makeshift protest signs.
When expanded the simple “I AM A MAN” message aligns strategically with I AM Zine’s mission. The phrase “I AM” is expanded in the publication to encourage readers to reflect on who they are, what they value and what they can bring to the fight against racism. Intentionally open-ended, the zine invites readers to create their own "I AM...” declarations, such as I AM teaching, I AM undoing, and I AM an ally in progress (the theme of the launch issue). Through this engaging wordplay readers of I AM Zine can place themselves within the anti-racist movement and be reminded to spur action.
The iconic placards carried by the striking workers in Memphis featured a bold sans-serif typeface printed in black or red ink on white poster board. In contrast the Pentagram team infused the new I AM Zine with vibrant colors and playful typographic styling to reflect the publication’s purposeful, celebratory support of Black artists and writers. Its wordplay and graphic expressions of allyship are designed to be encouraging and inspirational.
The new I AM Zine, edited by Francesca Polycarpe, features anti-racist topics and shines a spotlight on Black designers, artists, photographers and writers—both world-renowned and emerging.
The cover of volume 1 of I AM Zine features a solemn painting of George Floyd by Houston artist Michael Ray Charles. Charles, an internationally renowned talent who has explored historic Black stereotypes for decades, was originally commissioned by graphic designer Lana Rigsby to paint the portrait of Floyd for “The Church Fan Project.” For that project Rigsby’s Houston design firm, Rigsby-Hull, created traditional African American church fans that were provided to the 67,000 mourners who gathered in Houston on a sweltering June day to lay George Floyd’s body to rest. The fans featured Michael Ray Charles’ portrait of Floyd with eyes closed, having just uttered his last words “I can’t breathe, Mama” and a powerful promise of action on the back of the fan, “I VOTE.”
Neema, a brand consultant and emerging artist, created custom illustrated portraits of Toyin Salau, Elijah McClain, and George Floyd for I AM Zine and original artwork by Orenda Ayashe, whose compositions include social realism, synesthetic depictions of music, abstracts and dream imagery, is featured in the inaugural issue of the publication as well.
Other contributing artists, photographers and designers include Dave McClinton, Mark Clennon, Natalie Johnson, Eric Hart, Jr., Yadesa Bojia, Gherdai Hassell, April Bey, Jerise Fogel, Keith Carter, Adam Voorhes and Rebecca Hoskins. Guest writers include Zawadi Rowe, Aarianna Barnes, Kyra Williams, Malika T. Benton, Nicholas Fogle, Jelani Ince, Stacy St. Hilaire, Lindsey Ferguson, Nikkita, Chiara Rachmanis, VJ Jenkins, Catherine Kelly, Ankita Bhanot, Sara Leeds and Jo Cheng.