Let’s make a country! by

Year: 2019
Tags: Activation, Digital Narratives, Education, Strategy and Design Thinking

Master in Editorial Design Digital Narratives

Teachers
Vincenzo Angileri
Emmy Koski
Albert Folch
Camilo Roa

‘Imagined Atlas’
original concept
by Vincenzo Angileri

Course co-directed
by Marc Panero
and Albert Folch

Class photography
Dizy Díaz
Leo García Méndez

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This year at ELISAVA school, as part of our Digital Narratives course within the MA for Editorial Projects, we launched a year-long speculative design experiment: we conceptualised fictional nations and designed a digital editorial project set in that fictional world.

  • FOLCH - Let’s make a country!

Photo by Dizy Diaz

Imagined countries as narrative tools

There’s a book called Imagined Communities where Benedict Anderson described every nation in the world as “an imagined political community”. According to him, each of our countries “is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion”. Nations are ideas that exist only in our minds. Ideas we love, ideas that matter, ideas that change and hold up the world.

FOLCH - Let’s make a country!

Photo by Leo García Méndez

FOLCH - Let’s make a country!

Photo by Leo García Mendez

All nations are fictional, so why don’t create some new ones?

Nations are, by definition, an imagined community: a set of beliefs built through borders, symbols, flags, imagery, shared history, language, borders, even blood. Nations are stories we live or die for.

And yet, they are just stories. Think of how these stories can change history: from the thousands of conquerors that for a couple of centuries moved to Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana and Brazil looking for El Dorado, the mythical city made up by the Spanish Empire, to those who lost their lives in pursuit of Holy Roman Empire, an Arian Germany or even making America ‘great-again’. Besides more political countries, the list of fictional countries as a literary tool is, of course, immense, from Orwell’s Oceania to the Handmaid’s tale’s Republic of Gilead. And recently, new nations have been created with environmental, spiritual, artistic, even simply provocative intentions.

This is why we suggested to our students that through speculation, design and narratives, we can imagine the existence of new realities and prepare for alternative worlds. Via this utopian process, we can see beyond our limitations and articulate new social, political and ethical scenarios. And, apparently, they had fun doing it.

FOLCH - Let’s make a country!

Photo by Leo García Mendez

  • FOLCH - Let’s make a country!

Photo by Leo García Mendez

A laboratory of politics, narratives and design

The course was a political laboratory where we imagined new (or very old) forms of nation states. Students had first to build a parallel reality, utopian or dystopian, and then create an editorial project that was based in the story they had created.
They were asked to define a country, with its official name, history, flag, geographical setting, population, currency, form of government, society. In many cases, they had to create a previous story to link these new parallel worlds to ours: mythologies, geopolitical alliance, languages. Some of the countries they created had traditional borders, some were stateless, imaginative or merely digital. Some of them existed at some point, some will probably exist one day, others hopefully not. 

FOLCH - Let’s make a country!

Photo by Leo García Mendez

Using design to propose new realities

Through this exercise of mito-poiesis (construction of the myth), we created the conditions for speculative projects that are both experimental and deeply rooted in reality. The truth is, this reality is not directly ours. Still, through these projects, we opened doors to many topics – matriarchates, capitalism, the current rise of nationalism, the meaning of youth and the relationship between humans and technology – that help us making sense of our very own world through a critical, rather than simply theoretical point of view.

FOLCH - Let’s make a country!

Photo by Leo García Mendez

Learning diverse visual codes is as good as speaking more languages

Design-wise, the projects stem from a diverse aesthetic and visual culture. Starting from a different space and time, each group had to build their own identity and narrative and this resulted in a myriad of different projects, with original approaches, yet a coherent logic. Using current hegemonic design aesthetics was not an option.

FOLCH - Let’s make a country!

Photo by Leo García Mendez

FOLCH - Let’s make a country!

Photo by Leo García Mendez

  • FOLCH - Let’s make a country!

Photo by Leo García Mendez

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Activation, Digital Narratives, Education, Strategy and Design Thinking. 2019