Thursday, September 24, 2015

Ransom for your thoughts

RaNsoM nOtes...
Now and days, this idea is used as a playful method in design because of the visual impact it has to the eye. Our eyes are drawn to the stark contrast of color, size and fonts. To be honest I am not really inspired by this use of text, but I am more interested in the development of this idea and how over time it became a reference in the art field. 

While trying to find some research on ransom notes, I was able to find a story that dated America's first known ransom kidnapping notes. 

Here were the letters that were founded and published in 1876.

This note reads, 
“You wil have to pay us before you git him from us, and pay us a big cent to, if you put the cops hunting for him you is only defeegin yu own end.” 
Freeman's Auctioneers and Appraisers

I personally thought this story was actually pretty cool in my search to understanding the use of ransom letters because those letters represented a direct link to a disappearance that had remained unsolved for 139 years. What is also weird is that how did these letters end up in their basement of family artifacts. That's another story for another day perhaps. 

Building off of this information I was then curious to know why the use of a ransom letter anyway. From my knowledge, I always thought it was to disguise the criminals identity, which make sense, but if the criminal was already a mysterious suspect to the police and family why still disguise your hand writing. SO... I tried looking up possible facts on this matter and found no great explanations just theories which led to a more physiological understanding which i wanted to stray away from. 

but for the sake of satisfying everyone else curiosity as to "why" here is a useless link to people's comments and opinions, which are always quite funny.

Moving on, I started to think about how did ransom letters evolved over time especially to the iconic stage it is at now. You know, with the cut and paste magazine letters.

yea this one.
 Sadly I struck out once again with finding some answers. The closest I got to an answer was this quote from this brief article that stated, they exists only in the imagination of Hollywood screenwriters.

Trying to avoid the inevitable that this style of type is a lost cause, I wanted to see if any artist were influenced in mimicking this style and I lucked out for once. The cut-and-paste ransom-note style was made popular by Jamie Reid's. Jamie Reid was born 1947, an English artist and anarchist with connections to the Situationist. His work, featuring letters cut from newspaper headlines in the style of a ransom note, came close to defining the image of punk rock, particularly in the UK. His best known works include the Sex Pistols album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols and the singles "Anarchy in the UK", "God Save The Queen".

Jamie Reid became one of the results of this Postmodernist movement which began as a reaction to the rigid restrictions of Modernism. Punk first exploded in the 1970s in which it just looked like youthful rebellion. for more info on this movement here is its link.

Another possible inspiration is that around the 18th and 19th century as well, is that an Earlier version of Macintosh system software, up through System 7, included a bitmapped font called San Francisco that replicated the ransom note effect. Only not to be carried over into later versions of Mac OS.

Because we are in an era were we are ruled by technology everyday, criminals has no need to cut and paste ransom notes anymore, let alone be stupid enough to leave their finger prints on it in the process. All they have to do is type in their ransom letter at this playfully website called "The Randomizer" ( and they will achieve that similar cut and paste style, in a sense of course. 

Here are some other cool ransom note style I found on a simple google search;

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