Narrative Identities by Nadia Troeman



Graduate designer Nadia Troeman has created a conceptual system of branding and identity for her college, which would constantly change according to the cultural associations of individual students.


Developed while Troeman was studying for her MA in Creative Practice for Narrative Environments at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, the project envisages unique logos for every student, generated by their personal cultural interests.

Top image: university logo. Above: sample student logo


These logos would evolve as students add to and change their answers to a list of questions about what has cultural importance to them.

Above: sample student logos


These student logos could be combined to form logos for each course, which would in turn combine to create the university logo.

Above: course logo 


Above: course logo

Here's some more information from Troeman:


The project is called 'Narrative Identities':

‘Narrative Identities’ raises the question of identity, specifically cultural identity, in a world of increasing globalization where people and cultures are converging more than ever before. The question ‘who are you?’ is becoming increasingly difficult for some people to answer. Cultures are meeting, morphing and exchanging. The idea of a fixed identity is becoming redundant. We have to be able to play with representations in order to show a more accurate picture of who we are culturally. My project illustrates a variety of cultural references and challenges our interpretation and understanding of what these references mean to us today.


Explanation images and project:

I choose to tackle the enrollment system currently used at Central Saint Martins for my project. I created a system that allows students to express themselves more freely about who they are. This structure is a mock-up from how the website of the university would function when this project is connected to the digitalized (it's not at the moment) enrollment system. Each question that a student answers will trigger a visual, when all the cultural catagories in the system are filled in, the students will have created his/her own personal dynamic logo. A student is free to change their answers as often as they would like, their dynamic logo will in turn also be in constant flux, illustrating that culture and identity are never static.


The system itself isn't static either, since students are able to add to it, when they feel other items are important to them culturally.

All the logos of students in 1 course will be gathered to create a course logo this logo will be altered twice a year when enrollment takes place. All the course logos will in turn be collected to create a University logo. This logo will also be updated twice a year. So the university will have a constantly changing identity that is in sync with the students that attend.


From this logo a corporate design is created this of course will also be changing constantly.


On enrollment day, the students will be greeted by the Universities logo, and the more they walk to the place they need to be the more personal the visuals in the hallway get: from uni to courses' to personal logos. In the room they have to be they will receive their student card which they can use to 'call up' their image on the digital screen. Links will be shown with others who have the same interests.

Above: corporate identity poster


Posted on Monday September 7th 2009 at 1:45 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • While I’m a big fan of the changing logo (and really dug the Made In Bunch project [], for instance), I’m having trouble understanding how the elements on offer here can be used to address the question “Who are you?” with any kind of practicality. I mean, I get the theory behind the project but it seems extremely complicated to me, and unnecessary. Who will see these? Does each student just see their own? Is it primarily a social-netowrking tool? Could you not just pull up your student page on your computer and be provided with linkage to the like-minded without all this extra visual stuff going on? What is the benefit of the extra visual stuff? It seems as tho’ you’d need a key to the elements in order to be able to “parse” the various logos. And that seems awfully complicated. Plus, I find the end results somewhat displeasing to the eye as there’s just so much going on in most of them. I’m no minimalist but these are just visually too busy for my taste.

    I’m definitely intrigued by the idea of changing logos but I’m not at all convinced by this project.

  • Seems a bit fashistic… why do we need to let people know who we are all the time, or at all? So we can segregate or discriminate more easily?

  • Yes! What Ninian said too. It is disconcerting, that aspect of it. Why do we need to define ourselves? It makes me think a bit of Facebook and all the applications they want you to install which are really just information-harvesting tools that allow their advertisers to personalise their ads and make them specific to each user.

  • booh

    although I do agree with the above statements about facebook- I don’t see this is “fascistic” at all. I don’t quite understand how recognizing the individual even relates to that word. Conventional blanket branding that typical universities employ seem more “fascistic” than this because they simply don’t recognize the individual and create a identity that doesn’t represent the student, but models the ideal student. I think this is a really interesting way to represent groups of people. I don’t really see it working at a large scale, but I think thats what was intended. I think the most important thing a university can do for a student is recognize their individuality– especially as a designer. Design brings Designers together. Is that not a brilliant idea?

  • First of all I would like to thank you all for your comments and would like to take the time to react on them.

    One of the reasons for this project was indeed to stimulate discussion about identity in a globalized world, so the fact that we are discussing is good.
    The other reason was a personal one. I myself grew up in different parts of the world and have parents who are in turn from different places. When people ask me ‘who I am’ or ‘where am I from’ they usually don’t want the whole story so I start being selective with what I say.

    When moving to London we had to fill in our ethnicity on the enrollment forms at University. Here we had a very cramped set of choices that never really explains who we as a person really are. Hence my project started with a goal of making the enrollment experience more culture friendly and secondly more interactive. What I wanted to achieve was a system that does not dictate you to a box, but rather let you define your own. Students are free to fill in extra cultural information about themselves and some will give out more that nothers. The actual cultural categories in this system were analyzed from all the interviews I did and students are also able to add to the structure, thus making it more and more something of their own.

    Though this is a global issue, I specifically designed it for an Art and Design University, not for Government or a commercial enterprise. Students in this way design their own identity when coming into the University and they can update it as often as they like. This was then when I thought, “I have all these individual ‘logos’, built on a enrollment system that generates a visualized form of that data… what if I combined all this data and create an identity that truely reflects the people whom enrolled”. Thus the concept for the identity of the university was born. All the data that is readily available, combined into a single evolving identity. Thus the changes students make along the way have an immediate effect on the dynamic University logo.
    The students control the dynamics of the school’s identity and with every new student, it’s identity changes, reflecting the identities of the people within.

    This project is a personal interpretation (in concept and design) on how a globalized identity within a university could be visualized. With the most important part being the fact that individual identities are not limited to caged boxes, but rather an open opportunity for everyone enrolling to really represent who they feel they are.

    I hope this gives a better understanding to the choices I made and I’m curious to your reactions.

  • Booh it’s not recognising the individual at all. More like blending everybody into a system. It’s fashistic because if this proposal ever did happen then it would have to be imposed strictly by the Uni. The students would have no choice in wearing the emblems…it even reminds me of the Star of David emblems forcibly worn by the Jews in WW2.

    I dont understand what the problem with telling only specific people where you are from, especially if it’s an interesting mix. My family is fairly well spread globally, so it helps conversation! And if i don’t want certain people to know about me then i just keep my mouth shut. Which i will do now.

  • And anyway i don’t see how identity is made any easier to understand with these ‘logos’. The point of a logo or brand is to be able to recognise somethign easily, like the McDonald’s golden arches or Nike tick. These emblems would generally look very similar no matter how indiviual each student is.

  • Dear Ninian, you are a great example of someone who’s “enrollment image” would contain nothing more than the bare essentials. And that’s fine, because that’s your choice, you don’t need to share more information than you have to.

    Though I think what Nadia is trying to touch on here, is the fact that the system in which a student gets blended into when they enroll (the system that already exists inside the Uni and not one that is constructed by Nadia) is limiting and maybe even discriminating. Nadia is trying to open up that system and make it more culture friendly.

    She want’s to give those who want to express themselves more than just a tick behind Asian, African or European, the chance to do so. Further more the identity of the Uni is now a credit card with a barcode and a picture of the student, I don’t know about you, but if you want to talk about fascism?

    Furthermore I find it very interesting to see how a concept like social networking could be implemented into an identity for a school where like-minded people meet.

    Regarding the design of the logo’s you are correct when you say that the images have a visual basis that refer to one another, but that’s because they’re part of the bigger identity and therefor recognizable as part of that identity.

    By bigger identity I don’t think Nadia means Swastika’s and Hate regimes, but rather an identity that changes according to the people whom are part of it and not dictated by the people who run it.

    Well at least that’s my fifty cents.

  • archimaniak

    Dear Ninian,
    are you by any chance an ex-classmate of Nadia’s whose final project didn’t get a good grade because of her creativity?

    Why not channel all this aggressive energy back into something more proactively creative!

    Good work Nadia!

  • Nadia said: “What I wanted to achieve was a system that does not dictate you to a box, but rather let you define your own.”

    I’m not sure which troubles me more; the one whereby someone else ‘dictates ‘ you to a box or one whereby you dictate yourself to the same. At least with the first it allows plenty of errors to occur whilst with the second, if one is honest, some sort of cultural identi-kit can break through to the surface.

    Hanco Kamper said in referring to the wider context of identity: “…..but rather an identity that changes.”

    It’s nit-picking I know but at what rate of speed or slowness of change does it take before an identity ceases to be one ?

    I get the impression that whilst the project seems to be quite tight it is so fluid that it defeats its own purpose & for me that is a bonus. What Nadia has done has confused notions of identity with an identifying image which is in constant mutation & in the end that paradox fatally undermines the original concept.

  • Dear Tony

    Good comment!

    “at what rate of speed or slowness of change does it take before an identity ceases to be one ?”

    The way I understand it is that the identity of the school (the wider context) is the data this project generates. The visual aspect of the project is a question of how a designer reads and designs the generated data.


    “…whilst with the second, if one is honest, some sort of cultural identi-kit can break through to the surface.”


    “confused notions of identity with an identifying image which is in constant mutation & in the end that paradox fatally undermines the original concept.”

    Are you asking whether the original idea of opening up the systematic information and replacing it with fluctuating data, that that creates a fatal paradox? Because a system based on inconstant variables can not be used as system and as an identity because it is unsafe and too ambitious?

  • The problem for me Hanco is seemingly twofold. Firstly, if students were allowed to display minimal information and therefore a display a generic logo then probably most students would not bother, or perhaps only bother initially, but then lose interest. Each member of this system would gradually merge visually. The system has failed. Secondly, and conversely, if the system was a great success, with peacock like students proudly displaying their heritage (which is fine), then people like me who don’t feel the need to do so could feel almost like an outcast, eventually rejected. Potential grounds for discrimination by my peers, intellectual segregation. Why does this guy hide his identity? Indirectly i would be forced to submit myself to the system.

  • Cayley Monte (Nadia’s brother)

    Dear Hanco Kamper !
    Thank you very much for your point! It’s so wonderful to have people who can rationalize when it comes to art! As a Graphic-Media Designer/Musician myself, I think Nadia’s visuals clearly showcases the elements on hand!
    This is an amazing piece of art! She understands the ability to manifest a visual into various tangible mediums; including imagery!
    It is quite difficult to make an image/visual come to life!
    In most cases, if a piece of art creates some sort of a debate (as it is in this case) the art should be considered a MASTERPIECE!
    That’s what art is all about! Promote food for thought!
    Everybody should get a different interpretation and hopefully apply the lesson’learned to the their lives!
    To you Ninian, the system has NOT failed!
    Try and apply yourself to it!
    Thank you
    Cayley Monte
    Nadia’s brother in USA (might soon move back to SE London!