Templo’s powerful, trilingual identity exposes torture threat

Published:  December 10, 2014

British design studio Templo have crafted a typographic script and identity for #StopTorture — an initiative hosted by the International Truth and Justice Project, as they aim to bring awareness to human rights abuses in Sri Lanka. The visual system incorporates three languages, seamlessly integrating English, Sinhalese and Tamil characters.

The campaign collateral for print and screen introduces itself with a confronting foreword from Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu: “The evidence presented in this report gives the lie to the Si Lankan government’s propaganda that it is reconciling with its former enemies. It shows how anyone remotely connected with the losing side in the civil war is being hunted down, tortured and raped, five years after the guns fell silent. Shockingly, more than half of the abductions in the report took place as recently as 2013-2014.07_stop_torture_leaflet_0

Launched in June this year, the studio were asked to create a “politically neutral identity for both on and offline communications” surrounding the campaign. Two typographic logos were produced, one combining the Tamil and English characters, the other in English and Sinhalese, to spell the word ‘stop’ . Seeking balance, founder and creative director Pali Palavathanan explained to Creative Review that they ”didn’t want to alienate the very people we were trying to give voice to,” hence the coexistence of ”both perspectives.”


In order to remain politically neutral, Palavathanan explained that ”we had to avoid using deep reds, yellows and tigers to ensure we didn’t reference either Tamil Tiger flags or hard lined Sinhalese nationalists”. So far, the identity has been applied to the campaign’s website as well reports and imagery for social media and #StopTorture events. To accompany the campaign, there is a secondary site called  White Flags which commemorates the anniversary of the surrender and disappearance of 143 Tamils, where animated white flags (drawn as altered ’5′s) disappear in synch with a timeline of events, imagery and eyewitness testimonies.


The undertaking such a socially, culturally and politically charged campaign was riddled with complexities. Palavathanan explains, ”We had to protect the identities of translators, barristers [and] journalists who contributed, as the Sri Lankan government are known for their intimidation tactics and hostile treatment of those that question their authority — for this reason, many who were involved could not be credited. We also asked ourselves if we should put our names to the work.” A challenge to create something informative and striking without appearing radical or measured, he continues, “the design had to be incredibly sensitive to the content, which often described horrific and unimaginable events,” yet it also “needed to stand out and have impact.”



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