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Title: Brand archives : the rescuing of locally specific brand imagery as a graphic design response to the globalization of visual identity
Author: Carvalho de Almeida, Pedro Alexandre Santos
ISNI:       0000 0004 2736 5202
Awarding Body: University of the Arts London
Current Institution: University of the Arts London
Date of Award: 2012
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Visual identity can be understood as the result of the application of graphic design methods aimed at inter-brand differentiation, which paradoxically is leading to “homogenizing identities” (Bell, 2004). The globalization of visual identity is a phenomenon that can be observed not only among global brands competing with each other, but also in locally specific heritage brands that relinquish distinctive elements of their identity to resemble the global. In many cases, their specificities end up being distorted, blurred, or lost, and the richness of what is historically and culturally unique about them is often misinterpreted, neglected, or even discarded. By showing what can be lost with regards to historical and cultural memory within a brand’s imagery, this thesis questions the significance of archives to locally specific brands claiming symbolic and cultural relevance. It shows how can graphic designers can contribute to the preservation of cultural diversity through visual identity. To address the loss of cultural memory as well as the globalization of visual identity, this study draws on visual design heritage to achieve an understanding of the past as a source and a means to feed future cultural development. By adapting visual methodologies and case-study methods to assess brand identity, the study presents a methodological approach for the rescuing, interpretative analysis, and exploration of historical memory in brand imagery. It applies ethnographic research methods for data collection and graphic design methods for recovering visual materials, combined with timelines and grids for contextual and visual analysis. A main case-study is presented to demonstrate how the methods originated, how they enable the observation of identity transformations over time, and of how visual identity dissolves with global influence. This case addresses the historical context and today’s cultural relevance of an archive of the Portuguese iconic Sanjo sports shoes brand, which emerged with the rise of the ‘Estado Novo’ authoritarian regime in Portugal (1933–1974). Through the interpretation of how brand designs evolved in relation to contextual history it is possible to see the various social, cultural, political and economical transformations that occurred in their life spans. The thesis presents parallel examples of brands that were heavily influenced or even controlled by government in the past and now operate independently. As with the case of Sanjo, the comparative study investigates, and further draws attention to the relationship between the loss of historical memory and the globalization of visual identity. By examining the relevance of archives for addressing identity issues, the thesis shows that current graphic design practices can avoid failing to address historical contextualisation and cultural relevance if, firstly, a great deal of historical and cultural memory is retrieved, secondly, if there is substantial visual and contextual analysis, and thirdly, if the visual elements and histories uncovered are put together in the right context. By considering the possibilities that brand archives present for exploring the symbolic values of objects and generating meaning, this study fills a gap between archival practices and the way many designers and companies are dealing with locally specific brands. It argues that brand archives are key instruments for designers to derive meaning and convey cultural memory into the future, and that visual identity is a channel through which these can be acknowledged, displayed and experienced. The study concludes by suggesting possible approaches graphic designers might pursue to address the issues identified, and it broadens the scope of the directions in which brand archives can be explored through the re-contextualisation of cultural objects.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: European Social Fund ; MCTES
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Archive studies ; Graphic Design