pompidou moma tate

Project 1 Subversive Guidelines

“The badge we would like to wear is two-faced — both founded on, and breaking from, established guidelines. Stripped to its fundamentals, and described in heraldic vocabulary, it is UNCHARGED. It is a schizophrenic frame, a paradox, a forward slash making a temporary alliance between categories, simultaneously generic and/or specific.”

Dexter Sinister, We Would Like to Share (Some Possible Thoughts on a School Badge), 2006

“The literary and artistic heritage of humanity should be used for partisan propaganda purposes. It is, of course, necessary to go beyond any idea of mere scandal. Since opposition to the bourgeois notion of art and artistic genius has become pretty much old hat, Marcel Duchamp’s drawing of a mustache on the Mona Lisa is no more interesting than the original version of that painting. We must now push this process to the point of negating the negation.”

Guy Debord and Gil J. Wolman, A User’s Guide to Détournement, 1956

Whitney Misuse


This project focuses on contemporary identities for cultural institutions. Each student will be assigned an identity to research, experiment, and expose the limitations of its design system.


Learning outcomes

• Identify the current state of branding and identity design

• Develop a sensibility to the unstable technological landscape

• Understand identity design as a critical terrain



Step 1

Research your assigned brand identity through a journalistic lens. Carefully analyze its designers, the organization it represents, the brand’s values, and its context. Your main goal here is to find potential loopholes in the identity system. You may want to reverse-engineer it. Go deep. Get in touch with the designers and with people from the organization. Find out what has gone wrong. Read criticism, write criticism, instigate discussions online.

Based on this research prepare a 10 minute visual presentation to show in class. Due class 2: Sep 12

Step 2

Run your identity through a series of tests. Push its limitations with reproduction exercises, intentionally misuse the brand guidelines, confront your brands with hypothetical situations that might break their design logics. Have fun with glitches. Celebrate the aesthetic possibilities of your findings. Capture a minimum of 20 visual examples of your identity being pushed beyond its limits.

Bring your explorations to class on 11” x 17” black and white printouts. Due class 4: Sep 19

Step 3

Now take a breath. It is easy to graphically corrupt an identity, however your inquiry should not stop at simple gestures of distortion. Continue to look for specific processes within realistic use that might affect the system. Do more activist acupuncture and less anarchist punk. This project seeks to capture spaces of imperfection but also to suggest how they could be improved. Consider if the lines of analysis on the course essay are implemented. How could they be pushed further?

Select the most significant (or feasible) of your findings and make an illustrated process diagram that explains it. Bring your diagram to class on a 11” x 17” black and white printout. Due class 5: Sep 21

Step 4

Maximize your conclusions with graphic explorations. Develop a book that documents your process and works as a sabotage user guide for your identity. Your book should determine parameters and instructions for other people to execute your operations and extend your subversion.

Bring your book to class to discuss. It should be printed (color or BW) in double sided 8.5 “ x 11” sheets and stapled. Due class 7: Sep 28


• 10 minute visual Keynote presentation

• Minimum of 20 visual explorations

• Illustrated process diagram

• Minimum 32 page printed subversion guidelines


Anticipating Instability, Kenneth Goldsmith

Brand New Worlds, Andrew Blauvelt

"Identity", Dexter Sinister

Working within Contradictions, Barbara Steiner


Class 1: Sep 07
Group discussion (syllabus, course essay, introduction project 1)
Chris and Fede talk about instability in contemporary design and communication platforms

Class 2: Sep 12
Students share identities presentations

Class 3: Sep 14
Start of graphic explorations

Class 4: Sep 19
Group crit of graphic explorations
Chris and Fede talk about subversion in art and activism

Class 5: Sep 21
Group crit of process diagram Start of sketches for guidelines

Class 6: Sep 26
Desk crits and continue working on guidelines

Class 7: Sep 28
Final group crit of guidelines


• The Whitney Museum


• MIT Media Lab


• Columbia University’s GSAPP

• RISD Museum


• The New School

• Walker Art Center

• Asian Arts Theatre

• Stedelijk Museum

• Artist Space

• MK Gallery

• Casa da Música

• Brooklyn Museum

• Netherlands Architecture Institute