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Dorothee Dähler & Kaj Lehmann: Weltformat 2021 Dorothee Dähler & Kaj Lehmann: Weltformat 2021 Dorothee Dähler & Kaj Lehmann: Weltformat 2021 Dorothee Dähler & Kaj Lehmann: Weltformat 2021 Dorothee Dähler & Kaj Lehmann: Weltformat 2021 Dorothee Dähler & Kaj Lehmann: Weltformat 2021 Dorothee Dähler & Kaj Lehmann: Weltformat 2021 Dorothee Dähler & Kaj Lehmann: Weltformat 2021

The 2021 edition of the Weltformat Graphic Design Festival was all about exploring the ways in which graphic design produces and is produced by visual identity. How do designers approach the design of identity? Weltformat took postmodern discourses on identity as a starting point for thinking through questions of materiality and strategy from the perspectives of working designers.

Together with Stephanie Cuérel, Dorothee co-curated the three exhibitions about this years theme: Designing Identities.

1/3: Present Yourself
For this exhibition the Weltformat Graphic Design Festival handed over the design of its main poster to seven international design studios as an exploratory space for self-promotion. The seven posters were on display throughout Switzerland and announced this year’s theme and its designed identity. How do contemporary graphic designers choose to represent themselves? How is their identity reflected in the themes they select and the formal design decisions they make? Do the final designs relate back to the work they design for their clients?

The seven design studios have been chosen for their different approaches and work arrangements. It’s a mix of already and newly established studios, of designers who work in teams or by themselves, and who are active in Athens, Copenhagen, London, Seoul, New York, Stockholm, and Paris. They are: Actual Source, Alexis Mark, Europium, Johanna Burai, Moonsick Gang, New Studio and Zak Group. Their work is characterized by distinctive styles and unconventional approaches and/or experiences in creating visual identities. For the festival, they were asked to design a poster that showcases their design practice. Whether they wanted to share more personal thoughts on what drives their style, display their professional skill set, or give an overview of their work, it was up to them to decide which aspects of their identity they wanted to focus on.

The seven posters made up a curated exhibition and provided a first entry point to the festival’s theme. Accompanied by interviews in which the designers elaborate on their processes, styles, and approaches, as well as their personal interests in the poster designs the documentation of the exhibition was presented at the festival.

Concept and exhibition design by Stephanie Cuerel and Dorothee.

2/3: We Ourselves and Us
This exhibition gathered material submitted in response to an open call that invited graphic designers from all over the world to send in self-promotional print matter. The collection brought together more than 250 objects — ranging from business cards and stickers to refreshment wipes — and could be explored by visitors visually and tactually. In the context of the increasingly precarious working conditions in the design world, which are fuelled by pricing pressures, ever-growing competition, and a shift towards virtual representation, these material objects testify to how designers expertly and inventively present their own professional identities.

Are our clients present when it comes to the choices we make about our own professional identity? How do our work environments, specialist skills, and current trends factor in the design of these identities? How are we invested and investing in professional identity, and who do we try to attract when we design the simple but elegant business card in black and white or a colorful plastic card (evoking the chips used as payment for rides at the funfair)? What drives us to design a covetable print on a t-shirt or an expressive greeting card? The material collected in the open call suggests that many of us still take great pleasure in designing objects for our own professional identity.

In the exhibition set-up, sleek professional identity design alternated with visuals of a more personal nature. This eclectic mix is a testimony to the narrowing gap between personal and professional identity in late capitalism. Is self-representational printed matter still relevant in an age when designers are reaching bigger and more diverse audiences online? Will this collection soon become another archive which reminds us of past practices? Or do the tactile nature and playful designs gathered in the exhibition make a unique case for preserving important parts of contemporary identity design?

Concept and exhibition design by Stephanie Cuerel and Dorothee.

3/3:
This exhibition presented two video interviews in which Elena Filipovic, curator at Kunsthalle Basel, and Daniel Baumann, curator at Kunsthalle Zürich, reflect on their different curatorial approaches to visual identity. They discuss how the communication strategies of their houses seek to impact the perceptions of different audiences, and they elaborate on strategies that involve designers and artists. Their insights are shared alternately, as a dialog, on two opposing screens. This intimate set up was shielded from outside view by a mounted selection of exhibition posters from both houses.

Both Kunsthalle Basel and Kunsthalle Zürich are dedicated to exhibiting contemporary artists less familiar to audiences, and neither possesses a permanent collection. Baumann and Filipovic are intent on finding different ways to resolve the crucial need for communication that arises from these conditions. When listening to the shared strategies and intentions, some speculations may lead towards answers and actionable solutions, while others generate new questions. What does it look like to communicate as a curated platform for artists rather than as a corporation? Is it possible to refuse institutionalization as an institution? Can visual communication reflect internal connections? Is design able to help make everyone feel welcome? What happens when expressive identity design alters the readability of names? Is today's identity design able to support the constant reframing of authenticity and anticipation demanded from many platforms?

In the set-up of the exhibition the transition from inside to outside space was marked by posters of the two institutions, which remain the most publicly visible feature of an art institution’s identity. Inside the exhibition space, visitors will be confronted by the processes and questions multifaceted institutional identity design brings with it, among them the assumed limits of graphic design as a discipline and the increasingly oxymoronic demands of contemporary design practices. Listening to the interviews, visitors were invited to reflect on the rigidity of these rules and to rethink established design directives, but they were also invited to ponder why a more conservative approach might still win out for now. Will the fast-paced changes and the restructuring of communication channels be able to support a more adaptable and vivid identity design? How might future strategies differ aesthetically and strategically from the design approaches in use today? How will permeability, sharing desires, and working in collaboration with other disciplines serve designers in the future?

Concept and interviews by Stephanie Cuerel and Dorothee Dähler.
Exhibition Design by students of HSLU of Art and Design.

Texts with Sina Egger