Studio for Design and Research
Who designed the WikiLeaks logo? Part 2: An Interview with Aśka

The WikiLeaks hourglass, a “tale of two worlds,” is a deeply mysterious icon. Metahaven’s search for the logo’s designer lead to an artist by the name of Aśka.

She replied to an initial email:

Well, I must say it’s quite a surprise to hear from anyone regarding the logo. Thanks for your interest and the leads—it’s curious to see what people have written about it. […]
I am attaching the images for the WikiLeaks logos/images in chronological order to this email. 
That is really all there ever was.
Aśka’s work on the WikiLeaks logo proves that design as a “stealth profession” remains possible. For all the anonymity that it wanted (and got), Aśka’s WikiLeaks sign is, together with Anonymous’ question mark, a principal political image of the no-logo age. As someone commented on WikiLeaks’ Facebook post linking to this investigation: “whoever invented it, it’s history.”
The following interview with Aśka was conducted over email.  

How did your involvement with WikiLeaks come about?

I don’t usually design logos, but when friends ask me to, I never refuse. This case was no different. If I remember correctly, a phone number with African area code called my mobile, and it turned out to be Julian. He wanted me to create some graphics for his ready-to-launch project, more specifically, he was after some visuals which people could connect with on, as he put it, “an emotional level.”

How did the idea for the hourglass emerge?

I made the logo in 2006, so it’s hard for me to remember what I was thinking about at the time I made it. I’m sure it would have been a completely intuitive response to the brief. I can see from my sketches that it was pretty much one of the first things that came to my mind. I was very interested in the idea of transformation that Julian’s website was aiming to achieve. 
Changing the world may seem like a romantic notion, but it’s also exactly what needs to happen for each new generation to supersede the old. So I guess the hourglass is exactly that—a transformation in time. And the best thing about it is that once the last drop falls, you can turn it around and start again.
How did the sketching and decision making proceed toward the final logo?

Julian picked the hourglass sketch from the first few proposals I sent. I followed that with the vector version and apart from the font I don’t think anything was altered. 
There was an alternative line of thought though. It showed a wall from which bricks were being removed, with looming shadowy figures up above. Soon however, the idea became really complicated, and included moles and drills. After some back and forth fun, it got scrapped. 
What are your thoughts about what happened since? WikiLeaks is now extremely visible and well-known. Did you expect this to happen?

Yes and no is the short answer. The little I know about Julian is that he is very serious about his undertakings. If he wants to set up a website which uncovers world injustice and government conspiracies then he’ll do it. And at that point he already had all the drive, skills and facilities needed to do that. But of course it was impossible for me to know what that change will feel like before it actually happened. And yeah, it feels… BIG.
Are you still involved with WikiLeaks, or do you still feel related to what it is doing?

I never felt that I was personally connected to WikiLeaks. 
I don’t believe a logo has that much bearing at its conception, which is the only stage at which I was ever part of the process. In the end, any image connected with the WikiLeaks’ achievements, impact on the world and the monumental work and sacrifice of Julian and the WikiLeaks team, would gain some kind of value, and this is irrespective of the image itself. 
Their logo—’the icon’—already has meaning ascribed to it by others—the organisation itself, the supporters, the media and the aggressors. None of this is connected to me, except incidentally. 
I am immensely proud of WikiLeaks, but not because I had anything to do with it, but more so on the level of a person eager to see a less hypocritical, a more free and open future on the horizon.

Thank you.

February 27—March 5, 2013
All images courtesy Aśka

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      Part two of Metahaven’s investigation into the Wikileaks logo
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