Sister Mary Brings the Spirit of Samizdat to The Signal

Posted inPublication Design

The Signal, in collaboration with Sister Mary and the Human Rights Foundation, launches “The Long Game,” a limited-edition print publication exploring the global struggle between authoritarianism and democracy. Inspired by the spirit of samizdat, the publication employs bold typography, layered imagery, and unbleached newsprint to evoke urgency and rebellion, inviting readers to engage with complex narratives and reinterpret current affairs in a contemporary context. Editor John Jamesen Gould highlights the transformative power of print in deepening the emotional resonance and meaning of the publication’s message.

Sister Mary, led by founder Leigh Chandler, unveils a new limited-edition printed publication designed exclusively for The Signal, a global current affairs brand based in Washington, D.C. “The Long Game” highlights the global struggle between authoritarian states and democratic life.

Created in partnership with the Human Rights Foundation, in support of the Oslo Freedom Forum, the magazine features interviews with the Bosnian investigative journalist Miranda Patrucić, the American social scientist Francis Fukuyama, and others—on questions from how autocrats are adapting artificial intelligence to how corruption inside dictatorships is spreading beyond them to what the issues of democracy and human rights might end up meaning for your investment strategy.

The Signal’s team, including John Jamesen Gould and Hywel Mills, partnered with Chandler to infuse the inaugural issue with the alternative spirit of underground publishing. Samizdat, a term derived from Russian for “self-publishing,” refers to literature clandestinely written, copied, and circulated during the Soviet era, often critical of the government.

The Signal offers a different approach to current affairs. Its focus is on exploring urgent questions in dialogue with knowledgeable companions around the world—an approach meant to support readers and help them develop their interpretations of global events.

This debut issue not only pays homage to samizdat but reimagines it. The editorial design captures the raw essence of underground publishing while presenting it in a contemporary context.

The layout demands attention, using layering, cropping, aged textures, and bold typography to create a sense of urgency.

Unbleached newsprint was chosen for the paper stock, reminiscent of samizdat’s historical context. The color palette of light beige, black, red, and gold reflects the publication’s rebellious yet premium aesthetic.

The typography is bold and commanding, with headlines in Manuka and complementary text in Untitled, echoing the theme of defiance and urgency.

The publication’s imagery invites readers to explore deeper narratives, aligning with The Signal’s mission to engage with complexity in today’s rapidly changing world.

To be able to assemble our work in a print publication like this isn’t just beautiful; it’s transformative. It’s allowed us to bring a historical connection with the samizdat publications of the Soviet era to life in the language of design—and that’s allowed us to create a reading experience with a completely different emotional resonance and, ultimately I think, a deeper meaning.”

John Jamesen Gould – Editor, The Signal

About The Signal
Current affairs. Strange world. As our world becomes more intricately connected, changes faster, and seems only to get more disorienting, we’re all navigating it—or trying to—in a digital media environment dominated by algorithmic manipulation, polarizing engagement, and partisan spin. It can be hard to focus on what matters—and harder to think. The Signal is for people who want something different. The nonpartisan U.S.-based current affairs organization has diverse global contributors and is committed to liberal democracy.

About Human Rights Foundation
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. HRF aims to raise awareness about the nature and vulnerability of freedom worldwide while strengthening the work of grassroots activists in countries ruled by authoritarian regimes. Grounding its work in a deep commitment to individual liberty, HRF achieves its impact through unique policy research and legal advocacy, global events and educational initiatives, innovative and creative campaigns, and direct support to activists on the frontlines of democracy.

The Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) is a global conference series hosted and produced by HRF. Established in 2009, OFF brings together the world’s most prominent human rights advocates, journalists, artists, technologists, entrepreneurs, and world leaders to share their stories and brainstorm ways to expand freedom globally.