08 November 2006
An interview between Ashley Booth and Jacques Lange
An interview between Ashley Booth and Jacques Lange on the topic of current corporate identity practice in preparation of the Icograda Identity/Integrity Conference which will take place in Brno, Czech Republic from 18 to 19 June 2002.

Jacques Lange: What is your Personal design philosophy

Ashley Booth: I heard somebody say "Do not make anything if it is not both necessary and useful, but make it work and make it beautiful!" Nice! I would like to say I work that way.

I strive to base my work philosophy upon my social priorities and express cultural values. Technically to clearly defined aims and strategy. Whilst creatively I focus on the need for differentiation. Today when most products and services are not unique, I am convinced that competitive design solutions must be based upon distinctive characteristics.

I base my design values and techniques upon: curiosity - to find insight, for - insight - fuels creativity, and - creativity - allows new ways of seeing which creates ideas, and - ideas - can be realised with skill, for - skills - allow the use of precision and technology which permits us to compete and - in competing - the business allows us to challenge or create change. But above all, I want to get better at what I do and to question the way things are. Not only for clients, also for my own improvement.

JL: How would you define the role of the professional designer in the context of ethical visual communication?

AB: It is possible to say that the concept of identity development and visual communication embraces a complex network of meanings expressed through specific signs or symbols, and their recognition depends on establishing a relationship with the user.

I believe that the designer has a responsibility in choosing which values their choice of tools for establishing these relationships should be based upon. We designers have a choice of expressing social priorities and supporting cultural values and we must be conscientious, but of course which priorities and values are most debatable.

JL: In your view, has the practice of CI changed in the past decade and specifically after 11 September 2001?

AB: CI - is this Corporate Identity or Community Innovation or Corporate Innovation or Community Identity. or is it all about Customer Integrity or Consumer Individuality? I have problems with the definition of CI, for me Corporate Identity is a term that is now often used on branding, and that branding is a tool used by corporations - often global corporations.

The last 10 years have seen an increase in big brand domination and the value of CI in asset assessment. Consumerism has become a way of life, where greed could be said to have guided our behaviour more than need, where brand was more important than function and image more important than personality.

But after the September 11, we have experienced that consumer eagerness has regressed. It seems that we need a crisis to appreciate the difference between need and greed. The COMMERCIAL brands previously persuading us that if we buy them we become individualists have a greatly reduced credibility in this suddenly more serious world.

I believe that this is affecting CI development through our reassessment of our personal and public priorities. I believe that this will strengthen our appreciation of community identity and revalue the ethics of corporate identity.

JL: How does the practice of globally competitive CI relate to the ethics of globalisation?

AB: Globalisation leads to the acceptance of the idea that the world is a single unit defined by its diversity (common identities enriched by sharing goods and knowledge), a world in which cultures can understand each other. Unfortunately corporate identity and its commercialism can produce egoism whilst a community identity can be based upon ideological values.

It would be unfair not to recognise the advantages brought about through global economic and information exchanges, but its greatest disadvantage is that still economic differences persist (east/west, north/south).

A display of national and cultural differences in all branches of design diversifies and enriches our live. Can we thereafter comprehend asserting of identity in graphic design as the benefit? One of the benefits, sure.

I am also a supporter of tolerance - or appreciation of individual or community identities and values. I am a great admirer of those who are also able to express their values through their individual or joint communication, through their design techniques or design philosophy. I am also convinced that competitive design solutions must be based upon distinctive characteristics. But, I am not necessarily a great supporter of nationalism. The concept of identity can be individual in nature or attached to groups. yet it always the characteristics of the person or group which makes them recognisable to themselves or others. With the increase of globalisation, the international flow of goods, peoples, art, information and money have produced new transitional entities that can mediate between cultures and nationalities.

Distinguishing one culture or identity from the next demands rethinking and ethnic, media/information related, technologic, financial and ideological identities may also be considered relevant. Cyberspace can be considered as an escape from the impositions of reality and its commitments and where identity can be avoided. Yet Cyberspace and new technology also create local environments and virtual communities.

Local identities are becoming more difficult to perceive and define. How much recognition, attention and support do they deserve? How can we maintain a balance in co-existence with all the diverse identities found tomorrow?

JL: In your view, how important is the role of the vernacular and regional cultural expression in developing CI programmes?

AB: Very important! I believe that the exchange of knowledge and cultural practices among peoples either enriches or diminishes their original cultural legacy. I believe that the role of vernacular and cultural expression in the development of CI programmes is an important tool to ensure that our cultural legacy is enriched.

JL: Which companies/organisations, in your view, can be considered as masters in managing CI and why?

AB: It is stated that Brands have conquered lands and captured great power, that the Brand owners are the real power centres in our society and that we now live in a time of individualism. But the masters of CI are in my opinion those that can differentiate between individualism and egoism. I believe the masters are those that can promote individualistic solidarity, one can not practice egoistic solidarity.

JL: Who would you consider to be the ultimate master/s of CI design?

AB: There can be no ultimate masters unless you define Christianity, Islam or one of the main religions as a CI master. Your loaded question demands a morally acceptable candidate, very difficult in corporate commercialism but within community identity there are many candidates, maybe The Red Cross/Red half moon could be considered masterly.

JL: What would you consider to be personal career highlights as a design consultant?

AB: Three endeavours stand out: A-magasinet, the 1994 Winter Olympics at Lillehammer and AS Oslo Sporveier.

The Norwegian design and newspaper community was shocked in 1984 when I, aged 25, was appointed as Art Director of A-magasinet, Norway s leading newspapers weekend colour supplement. Under my direction A- magasinet won national and international acclaim for its use of illustration and design. I headed the creative team of the publication until 1989.

My second career highlight is undoubtedly my appointment as Department Head for Graphic Design by the Lillehammer Olympic Organising Committee (LOOC) for which I was responsible for developing and implementing the visual profile for the 1994 Winter Olympics. This programme proved that a carefully prepared and executed unified design programme could, in fact, address many complex tasks. In addition to graphic design responsibility, I had partial responsibility for developing signs, banners, and other information and festive elements with Ketil Moe, Department Head for Architecture. I was responsible for designing the signage to be used, deciding on language, colour, images, symbols and size, while Ketil was in charge of building permits, construction and mounting. Ketil and I had joint responsibility for the selection of materials and placement. More than 80,000 signs were produced, in addition to stadium seating signs and numbering. I also shared responsibility for developing licensed products and souvenirs with Petter Moshus, Department Head, Design.

We were guided by the Lillehammer Olympic Winter Games' official report which stated "The main vision of the Winter Olympic Games at Lillehammer shall be not only a sports festival but also a celebration centred upon the summit of human sporting achievement and sound and proven values." The national objectives of the Games were to achieve "an event that unites and involves the whole country, one to make the nation proud, to inspire and stimulate and to ensure for Norway lasting competitive advantages", while the international objectives were "to create a strong, positive and unified impression of Norway, reaffirm its already established position as a major winter sports nation, enhance respect for Norway's fundamental values and international role, and boost Norwegian enterprises and the country's trade and industry in general." I believe that we succeeded on all levels and this programme has subsequently become a model for all Olympic Games and other major international sports and cultural events.

I rate my involvement in the development of new travel passes and tickets for AS Oslo Sporveier (Oslo Public Transport) as a third career highlight. AS Oslo Sporveier (OS) manages and operates public transportation in Oslo. Listed below are some of the expectations that OS had in developing a new design programme for their travel passes and tickets:
- Greater security against forgery and fraudulent use
- Expression of OS' unique identity
- Standardisation of formats for passes and tickets and greater practicality
- Immediate recognition of the different types of travel passes and tickets
- Development of a system that would be easily understood by passengers and staff
- Marketing of transport services via tickets so that they function as miniature advertising posters
- Cutting production costs

In designing the new tickets, we emphasised differentiation through the use of colours and illustrations to show periods of validity and child/adult applicability. For example, the Half-year pass shows the passage of six months through snow crystals and flowers, while the Monthly pass shows a lunar phase.

OS had received feedback from customers and employees on the advantages and disadvantages of previous ticket formats. Based on this feedback, the new clip cards (Flexi card), Day passes and 7-day passes were given credit-card-sized formats. I also introduced techniques allowing for sight recognition of forged or tampered tickets. These adaptations allow tickets to be inspected without the use of extra technology (e.g., colour filters or an ultraviolet lamp). Monthly passes and Half-year passes, which represent larger fare payments, now bear a unique holograph strip for added security. In 1996, when the new design was launched, I also introduced colour coding to enhance identification of child/reduced fare and adult-fare tickets and passes. Child/reduced fare passes are printed with a pink background in the area reserved for the passenger's name and across the reverse side, while passes for adults receive a blue background in these areas.

In February 2002, Grafill, the Norwegian organisation for graphic designers and illustrators, made me an honorary member. During the presentation speech Grafill claimed that there are two eras in recent Norwegian illustration and design: in illustration there is before and after A-magasinet and in design before an after the Lillehammer games. These comments made me humble and proud.

JL: What do you expect from the Conference in Brno?

AB: Courage and vision, learning and sharing!

I hope that the conference will inspire us to juggle thoughts, review priorities and upgrade dormant values. Maybe we can all make new contacts and have new ideas and establish new networks or improve old ones for future improved co-operation.

And last but not least, good food and good wine. I will be visiting the Czech Republic for the first time and looking forward to experiencing this reputably hospitable land.

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About the Authors
Ashley Booth
is principal of Ashley Booth Design AS, based in Oslo. The company builds successful client/designer partnerships and attracts interesting projects which fuel the design team's aspiration for consistent innovation and differentiation. She was project manager, graphic design for the Lillehammer Olympic Organising Committee, 1991-94. Her work ethic and process is based on simple values: 'curiosity, to find insight, for 'insight fuels creativity, and creativity allows new ways of seeing which creates ideas, and ideas can be realised with skill, for skills allow the use of precision and technology which permits us to compete, and in competing the business allows us to challenge or create change'.

Jacques Lange is a partner in Bluprint Design, an award-winning consultancy based in Pretoria, South Africa. He is active as an advisor, author, consultant and adjudicator, and an editorial committee member for the academic journal, "Image & Text". He is a founding member and president of Design South Africa and is a member of the Design Education Forum of Southern Africa. Since 1990 Jacques has been a part-time lecturer at his alma mater, the University of Pretoria. He was the chairperson of the Continental Shift 2001 Icograda Congress in Johannesburg and was co-opted to the Icograda board in October, 2001.