Justin Penner

Mexico ’68

Terror and Beauty is a 28-page magazine on the tension between the design and politics of the 1968 Mexico Olympics.

This magazine project was part of my Editorial Design coursework at Emily Carr University of Art + Design.


The 1968 Olympics in Mexico City are simultaneously celebrated and lamented as a defining moment for modern graphic design and one of the darkest hours in Mexican history. This 28-page magazine presents a series of articles contrasting the groundbreaking graphic system of Mexico ’68 with the horrific state-sponsored massacre of student protesters only ten days before the opening ceremonies.

The unconventional design of the magazine sets the articles on alternating pages, splitting each spread into a side-by-side pairing of the two subjects: beauty and terror.

Blood drips from the Mexico ’68 logo and the Peace Dove logo on the front and back cover of the magazine
Front/back cover blending the light and dark subject matter of the magazine.

Table of contents is white on the left page and black on the right
Table of contents introduces the left/right split concept to the reader.

It’s an unusual concept, and I considered outright explaining it on the opening spread above. After much deliberation and testing it on a few people, I decided it really does come across clearly enough to allow the reader to enjoy figuring it out on their own.

Two articles begin on opposite sides of the magazine spread. Both feature images of radiating lines, but with very different meanings.
The dual opening articles.

I often spend a bit too much time selecting the perfect typefaces for a project. Perhaps I overanalyze, but I do believe that there’s an art to type selection, and it can add authenticity and meaning to a project, even if most of the audience doesn’t consciously notice it.

I wanted to learn a little about Mexican typography, so I dug into it and ended up finding two fantastic typefaces for the magazine. Headlines are set in Presidencia, an institutional type family commissioned by the Mexican government. It was inspired by Aztec architecture, which draws a great parallel with the influences that Aztec and Mayan folk art had on the Olympic design system of ’68.

The articles are set in Espinosa Nova, a revival of the work of Antonio de Espinosa, a sixteenth century Mexican printer and the first punchcutter in the Americas. It’s a gorgeous design, but restrained enough that it carries the text reliably without drawing any attention to itself.

A vast expanse of negative space on each page focuses on silhouettes of athletes on one side, and police beating a protestor on the other.
The (in)famous silhouette motifs

When I first put the silhouette designs side by side, I was stunned by how perfectly it illustrated the tension between dark and light — the concept of the entire magazine. I had to dedicate a full two-page spread to it.

The silhouettes of athletic action were an iconic part of the Mexico ’68 design system, and there is so much power in the way the protesters subverted this design with their own message.

All the white pages of the magazine.
All the white pages.
All the black pages of the magazine.
All the black pages.

One of the things I love most about working in design, is when a project changes your perspective, or it teaches you something interesting and important. This project was an eye-opening look into one of the most significant events in Mexican history, which had lasting effects on the culture and politics of Mexico. Now, whenever I meet someone from Mexico, or spend time with a friend who is Mexican, I feel like I understand them just a little better.


Designed and edited by Justin Penner.

Written by Emmet Byrne, Katharine Josephson, Luis M. Castañeda, Philip L. Russell, George F. Flaherty, Elenia Poniatowska.

Headings set in Presidencia. Text set in Espinosa Nova.


La Grafica del 68 by Grupo Mira

The History of Mexico From Pre-Conquest to Present by Philip Russell (2010)

Massacre in Mexico by Elenia Poniatowska (1971, English translation 1975)

Mexico 1968 : XIX Olimpiada, a four-volume report by the Organizing Committee of the Games of the XIX Olympiad (1968)

Spectacular Mexico: Design, Propaganda, and the 1968 Olympics by Luis M. Castañeda (2014)

“Appropriation, Parody and Space in the Mexico City Student Movement Graphics, 1968” by George F. Flaherty

“The Art of Protest and the Year that Changed the World” by Katharine Josephson (2010)

“Beyond Tlatelolco: Design, Media, and Politics at Mexico ’68” by Luis M. Castañeda

“The continuing influence of the Mexico ’68 Olympics brand” by Luis M. Castañeda (2014)

“Radiant Discord: Lance Wyman on the ’68 Olympic Design and the Tlatelolco Massacre” by Walker Art Centre

“This is 1968. . .This is Mexico” by Carolina Rivas, Daoud Sarhandi and Eduardo Terrazas for Eye Magazine (2005)

“This is not Mexico” by Beatrice Trueblood, Eduardo Terrazas and Daoud Sarhandi by Eye Magazine (2006)