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.
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.
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.
The Handbook of Tyranny, by Theo Deutinger. Published by Lars Muller Publishers, £25
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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.
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