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The Secret Mathematic Movement of Zero

Contributed by Alex Francis on Jul 12th, 2018. Artwork published in
January 2018
The Secret Mathematic Movement of Zero 1
Photo: Alex Francis. License: All Rights Reserved.

The project revolves around the journey of Zero as a mathematical concept, from the hands of famous mathematician Fibonacci, to its solid place hold in our number system today. This story narrates a moment in human history when reason triumphs over superstition. The notion of zero is also seen as one of the greatest innovations in human history.

The overarching themes of the design revolve around the visual appearance of manifestos and protest art. This particular style is especially relevant because it is bold, to the point and resonates with the narrative. Its purpose it to spread an important message to a particular audience, even if it the content is prohibited or frowned upon. The feeling I get from looking at examples of manifestos in my research is that they were created quickly so that they could be distributed fast. This gave me the incentive to keep the design simple and to the point to communicate the significance and humanist elements of the narrative in a clear and concise way.

When it came to deciding what typefaces to use, my research had given me a clear understanding that a powerful, clear typeface was required to communicate the importance of the narrative. Alternate Gothic is a sturdy, dense, and a no-nonsense typeface, designed by Morris Fuller Benton in 1903. It is described as an excellent selection when powerful typographic headlines must fit into an economy of space. All three weights of Alternative Gothic – numbered 1 through 3 – are bold and narrow, adding to the authority and urgency zero’s narrative conveys.

The content in the book is opinionated, and therefore requires a body copy typeface that is non obtrusive and humanist. I believe the use of a simple sans serif such as Sofia is a practical decision as it would be more readable and aid in telling the story in a modern context in order to attract more people. Printing the text in white on black stock also increases the texts visibility. The typeface also includes a range of proportional old style figures and small caps, which have been utilised in the body text to convey dates and numbers.

The book utilises a narrow page proportion because Renaissance typographers extensively used this ratio. The page size is 6.8 by 11 inches (major 6th). The margin and gutter sizes were all devised from the golden section.

All of the text is bound to a 9pt baseline grid, and a 4-line proportion is used to space each typographic element on the page, such as the headline and the body text. The point size and leading of every typographic element is a multiple of 9, in relation to the baseline grid.

The majority of text is flush left apart from headline text, which both hangs from the top of the page and is in according to the front cover. Headline 2 also spans a double spread and is centred.

There are four relating page sizes. A tipped-in page, double page foldouts and a book bound poster, each with related grid systems, are applied throughout the book. Each size and grid was devised from the golden section.

To communicate the secrecy of the story, black ink on black paper is employed to subvert some of the text, but still retain its readability. This is used in headlines; quotes, titles and secondary body text to break up sentences, subvert information, and add a second layer to the design.As well as this, the entire second section of the book is bound shut by a red double perforated sleeve, which must be torn open to continue with the story.This is the part of the story where rebellion, defiance and triumph are significant. The book is also wrapped in a cover sleeve, to act as a metaphor for secrecy and concealment.

Lastly, to communicate the triumph of zero and reinforce the manifesto feel of the publication, a series of French fold posters are bound into separate parts of the story to represent the progress of zero. The posters contain messages that are direct and relatable to the context the book, but when removed and placed in a new context, they become slightly abstracted and captivating.

The Secret Mathematic Movement of Zero 2
Photo: Alex Francis. License: All Rights Reserved.
The Secret Mathematic Movement of Zero 3
Photo: Alex Francis. License: All Rights Reserved.
The Secret Mathematic Movement of Zero 4
Photo: Alex Francis. License: All Rights Reserved.
The Secret Mathematic Movement of Zero 5
Photo: Alex Francis. License: All Rights Reserved.
The Secret Mathematic Movement of Zero 6
Source: Photo: Alex Francis. Alex Francis. License: All Rights Reserved.


  • Alternate Gothic
  • Sofia




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