Among the multiple identities that define social groups, it is the national one that gives the largest political impact globally. Thus, even though most of us malign, disbelieve, criticize or fear the national idea, the world continues to be articulated through this form of organization.
Even today there are nations who imagine and re-imagine themselves. Old and new nations, nations in construction or decline, nations that are assumed or denied, nations that respect diversity or totalitarianism. At the same time, they are all nations that are building identities.
In these nations, the State Ideological Apparatus creates certain feelings, thus producing nationality (Anderson, Gramsci, Laclau). To do so, these states distribute cultural fictions or symbolic fables, all of them images designed to obtain a monopoly on cultural norms and discourses.
However, to carry out this construction of national identity, the state must embody certain common content and have the power to institutionalize this content. In addition, there is a need for support media, channels of material culture through which to broadcast speeches of nationality such as public architecture, monuments, statues, cockades, uniforms, tickets, flags, coats-of-arms, school books and propaganda campaigns.
This occurs because the social significance of the images and objects and the social significance of the act of seeing, representing, interpreting, desiring and imagining as sources that provide power to the images (Lacan). This way, if we accept that there is no identity without its image we can think that the construction of nationality is the result of an act of design, the design of identity, understood as a political action of the first level.
Under this framework, it is important to discover the mechanisms and resources used by States to construct national identity from the design of images, as this will help the designer to expand the options and know the effects of design image work. For example, it will help the designer understand how to contribute from their work to the democratization of the national culture.
This process described above is not included in the academic training of the designers of visual communication, even if some of them are likely to be in charge of distributing images for the government or even for ideologically based institutions and organizations.
More information on the subject, see www.designingnationality.com
©Sebastian Guerrini, 2009