Prof. Andreas Wrede

Area of Study: Identity and Design (ID)

Cologne International School of Design, Faculty of Cultural Studies, Cologne University of Applied Sciences.

Make-Up of the Study, Teaching, and Research Area of Identity and Design

The traditional ideas on corporate design, corporate identity or branding are turning into a much more realistic view of the theme of identity as a whole. Naturally, it is still about the understanding of design and its effect on the communication processes that create identity. “Identity and Design” is the area of study at the Cologne International School of Design in which we critically and comprehensively reconstruct and reflect upon concepts and designs that are tied to identity. At the core of this process is the question of the multiplicity of ways that design constructs identity: for example, in the fields of language, behaviour and communication, and also through brands, products, advertising, music, fashion and so on, meaning that the fundamental problem of the many and varied identities of people and corporations forms the central focus of the study of design in this course.

Corporate Identity, Corporate Design and Branding Concepts:

The dynamic of a hectic, global economy »”in which design also plays a role«”has led to an affirmative emergence and utilisation of such terms as, for example, ‘corporate identity«™, »˜corporate imagery«™, »˜corporate language«™, »˜corporate branding«™, »˜corporate culture«™, »˜corporate sound«™, »˜corporate heritage«™, »˜corporate communication«™, »˜corporate behaviour«™, »˜corporate social responsibility«™, and so on. The multiplicity of models for corporate identity and the overuse of the term “identity” with a multitude of various meanings in the jargon of the so-called “trends research” and marketing industries are increasingly frustrating any attempts at a conceptual orientation. Design is also assigned a role in those models that in no way corresponds to today’s comprehensive understanding of design. In this course of study at the Cologne International School of Design, we will also identify those positions that affect these models and their implementation. In this context, it is important to note that in particular corporate identity, branding concepts and the strategies associated with them have occasionally become authoritarian and standardising, and, for precisely this reason, often actually often run contrary to what »šidentity«™, at its very best, might look like. An understanding of design that is broadened by this central idea, enables us to consider a problem to be analysed independently from the actual reality that these models create.

Discourse on Identity

The discourse on identity with its many and varied positions shows, however, that personal or collective identities are neither free of contradictions nor as natural as they are sometimes assumed to be and handled in practice-related models. The relational aspects of the discourses on identity from philosophy, sociology, semiotics, psychology, anthropology, gender and cultural studies, cognitive science, communications, media studies, linguistics and iconography are of central importance for this field of study. In the interdisciplinary discourse on the theme of identity, various writings illustrate the differentiated spectrum of identity, amongst them: identity as a dialectical construction in »˜the identity of identity and non-Identity«™ (G.W.F. Hegel); identity as a social problem »˜from birth onwards«™ (Zygmunt Bauman); identity between »˜pluralization and individualisation«™ (Ulrich Beck); identity as a part of the social process »˜from communicating to building«™ (George Herbert Mead); identity as a challenge for developmental psychology (Erik H. Erikson); identity as a role (Erving Goffman); identity through participation in interaction processes (Lothar Krappmann); identity as a »˜narrative concept«™ (Wolfgang Krauss); identity as a »˜conduit«™ or »˜interface«™ between interior and exterior worlds (Heiner Keupp); identity as a »˜transitory process«™ (Jurgen Straub); identity in dynamic »˜figurations«™ as a ‘we-I balance’ (Norbert Elias); identity and gender (Judith Butler); identity as a ‘struggle for acknowledgement’ (Axel Honneth) through to the radical definition of the term “identity” as an “ideological obsession” (Michel Foucault), to name a few important perspectives.

Individuals, groups and organisations wrestle in various ways with the themes of attention, acknowledgement, power and ultimately with identities. The political, social, cultural and economic implications that are bound up in this, along with their contradictions and divergences are a part of design thinking and practice. It is all the more important that designers have expertise and the corresponding communicative skills at their disposal that go above and beyond the attributes of identity-creating communication. In this context, design can »”and must«” also formulate its own identities and maintain them vigourously.

Methods of Study, Perspectives on Cooperation and Research:

Alongside the basic reconstruction and deconstruction of knowledge on the theme of identity, its various models and positions of discourse will be discussed in seminars, supervised study groups and lectures. The course on identity and design will find its The collaborative complementation and technical perspectives for the course on »˜Identity and Design«™ will take place within the framework of the broad range of course offerings at KISD. The requisite expertise and practical proficiency will be tested and questioned in interdisciplinary project work.

Furthermore, in the study and research field »˜Identity and Design«™, co-operative and research projects, symposia and conferences will also be held.