Poster by Orin Bristow


Immutable: A Mineral History of Currency and Typography

The research I will present is premised on seeing the history of money and typography as related— beginning from the earliest records of systematized writing and graphical logic on clay tablets (which were primarily administrative/financial documents) to coinage and paper money (and their relation to the revolutionary effects of the printing press) to cryptocurrencies (which figure an ontology of typography as code). Key to articulating the significance of this relationship and its consequences for graphic design are the notions of standards, immutability, and the document, and their relation to deflecting uncertainty, contingency, plurality, contestation—in short, politics. My research thus aims to unpack these notions in relation to the matter of graphic form and its political dimension. What I believe to be at stake in this project is an understanding of the extent to which graphic design has functioned as an instrument of state power and by extension, colonial forms of governance and ways of knowing, and to think about ways this might be challenged, critiqued and/or subverted.


Chris Lee is a graphic designer and educator based Buffalo, NY and Toronto, CA. He is a graduate of OCADU (Toronto) and the Sandberg Instituut (Amsterdam), and has worked for The Walrus Magazine, Metahaven and Bruce Mau Design. Through his research practice, Lee explores graphic design’s entanglement with power, standards and legitimacy. He has contributed projects and writing to the Journal of Aesthetics & Protest, The Copyist, Graphic, Volume, and Counter Signals and has facilitated workshops in art institutions in the US, Scotland, the Netherlands and Croatia. Currently, Chris is an Assistant Professor at the University at Buffalo SUNY, a member of the programming committee of Gendai Gallery, a design research fellow at Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam (2017/18) and formerly with the editorial board of the journal Scapegoat: Architecture/Landscape/Political Economy.