Echelon is based upon 1970s Eastern European ‘pipe-style’ typefaces. This style of Communist consumer typography came from what, at the time, seemed like a bizarre mirror universe: Existing alongside the West, similar-but-different, essentially unknowable. Even though the letterforms had the same historical origins as their Western equivalents, they also had their own bizarre fashionable/unfashionable aesthetic.
The parallels between the surveillance practices of the Soviet Union and those of today’s Western governments informed the naming of this typeface. Echelon is the codename for a massive international surveillance system that collects and processes data from communications satellites. It can eavesdrop on telecoms and computer systems, it can track bank accounts. It can record and store information on millions of individuals.