The infographics of tyranny exposed in a new handbook

Handbook of Tyranny book cover
The Handbook of Tyranny – a designer’s guide to the graphics of oppression
(Image credit: press)

The infographic has a lot to answer for. Conceived as a means of conveying lots of data in an easily digestible format, it has evolved into a lazy substitute for meaningful content. At first glance, The Handbook of Tyranny is simply more of the same, a slim volume of maps, charts, graphs and diagrams that one presumes is a substitute for a more substantive discussion.

Created by the architect and designer Theo Deutinger, the Handbook should probably be subtitled ‘brief glimpses into our hideous world,’ for it brings home the worst aspects of modern life, rendering the banality of evil like a spreadsheet. With chapter headings like ‘Walls & Fences’, ‘Refugee Camps’ and ‘Crowd Control,’ you know you’re in for a deep dive into the structures and systems that control our world - some obvious, some not.

Infographic displaying how crowds are controlled during a protest, in real time

Infographic displaying how crowds are controlled during a protest, in real time

(Image credit: press)

The breadth of information here is never less than fascinating. Discover which 14 countries ‘welcome every citizen from any country in the world with a valid passport without any visa restrictions,’ or the myriad designs for keeping people out (and in) of the world’s many contested and conflicted border zones.

This is a graphic project rich in hidden history and unsavoury elements. Aficionados of graphic design will be fascinated by the iconographic breakdown of the flags and logos of the world’s most notorious terrorist groups, from ETA to ISIL, but the shock value of a refugee camp map of Africa is much greater.

Infographic displaying how many animals are killed per second world wide

Infographic displaying how many animals are killed per second world wide

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Of course, the two subjects are inextricably linked and that’s one of Deutinger’s main points – these are all systems and structures that have sprung up around the world to perpetuate cruelties and conflicts. They range from the everyday (the myriad ‘defensive’ designs that litter the city to deter the homeless, skateboarders, the suicidal terrorist etc) through to the deeply unpleasant (the ‘death penalty’ fold out double page is not for the faint-hearted).

After a depressing diagrammatic trudge through the planning, function and output of the world’s animal slaughterhouses, the reader finally reaches a small pocket of post-industrial paranoia/optimism (delete according to your outlook). Deutinger’s plans for a ‘Green Fortress’ are a slightly tongue-in-cheek proposal for the ardent eco-survivalist, keen to shut themselves away from the tyranny outside.

Handbook of Tyranny prison cells

Infographic displaying the design of a prison cell, in which the window is placed at a height where people cannot see eye-to-eye

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Spread from the Handbook of Tyranny

Illustration attached to a US patent for a tear gas grenade by Michael K. Levenson

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Slaughterhouse infographic from the Handbook of Tyranny

Floorplan of a slaughterhouse

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Map infographic from the Handbook of Tyranny

Infographic displaying the places in the world that you can enter without a visa (red), and those where a visa is required (black)

(Image credit: press)

Map infographic from the Handbook of Tyranny

With chapter headings like ‘Walls & Fences’, ‘Refugee Camps’ (pictured) and ‘Crowd Control,’ you’re in for a deep dive into the structures and systems that control our world

(Image credit: press)

Map infographic from the Handbook of Tyranny

Map of refugee camps around the world

(Image credit: press)

INFORMATION

The Handbook of Tyranny, by Theo Deutinger. Published by Lars Muller Publishers (opens in new tab), £25

Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.