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Typography & Design | Wormwood

To obsess about the death of one’s father is to find recovery in it–

1953, New York – Frank Olson fell out the window of his hotel room. Had he been pushed? Or had it been suicide? This led to his son, Eric’s obsession with details that led to the documentation of his father’s demise.

It was a crazy preoccupation – a hobby – and a lifelong attempt at uncovering government secrets — stuff people go to movies for just to feel they have some sense of understanding and control over a body that presides over them.

Eric Olson’s research draws commendable effort for the amount of time dedicated to discovering, “What really happened in that room.” And perhaps this is what attracted Errol Morris to pursue this as a project – to air it out as a union between cinematographic narration and the documentary.

Wormwood was the perfect story to translate because it had already been figured out and all it needed was a vehicle to tell that narrative. But there was also  art to what Eric Olson did due to it being well researched, succinct, with visually overwhelming facts compiled into a smorgasbord of information chronicling the CIA’s attempts at experimenting with LSD. His was a type of visual obsession familiar to Joseph Cornell’s surreal endeavors at scrap booking and collaging made accessible by Errol Morris’ vision.

Wormwood serves as a montage of gathered records arranged together to perform a visual piece that persists to tell a story through typography.

Where [type] is used as a medium to trigger the emotional landscape of the narrative — blurring the lines between the sterile makeup of an official report to display something personal, something familiar to us.

Errol Morris’ goal was to show Eric Olson’s truth – his perspective – in the events that happened prior and post 1953.

What really happened? Did he jump? Or was he pushed?

All of these remain as assumptions that were backed with interviews and information that hold as facts – showing a side to an unsolved mystery through various techniques found in film.


The use of type in Wormwood interlaced the theme of Eric Olson’s life project. Words – all of his life sorting through documents and reading through piles of papers – permits us to see a panoramic view of a man’s suffering and catharsis as he sorts through what caused the death of his father.

When Eric Olson was a child he made a collage out of some cutups. It was later revealed that a particular piece hinted to his father’s impending death. Perhaps, my curiosity lies in assuming that he had blamed himself for it and to atone he made more collages to let his father live.

The end of man (as a factual anthropological limit) is announced to thought from the vantage of the end of man (as a determined opening or the infinity of a telos ). Man is that which is in relation to his end, in the fundamentally equivocal sense of the word. Since always.  – Jacques Derrida

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