Pablo on why identity is complex

My brief summary won’t do justice to Pablo’s narrative treasure hunt, and nor do I want to spoil the fun of hearing him talk live, but nevertheless, here’s some notes that stayed with me, which I hope will be thought starters for you too.

  • Identity is complex. And by complex we’re referring to interconnectedness — the original meaning of the Latin term — and not complicated or hard, what we tend to say when we use the word complex. So identity is the interconnection of many different relationships we have in our lives: with ourselves, with others, and with the world we live in.
  • This multiplicity of relationships intertwined in our identities led to the need of customisation and further on personalisation of pretty much everything around us.
  • The identity of someone is not what you see, it’s what you feel. In the same way you don’t see a relationship between you and another person, but you feel it.
  • Because of the nature of interactions we now have in our lives, emotion is more legitimate than ever. And emotion is closely related to experience. Which is, by all means, overexploited in our industry today.
  • I can meet myself anywhere. Complexity → interconnectedness → multiplicity means that in a complex world we can identify with people that are completely different from ourselves, except for one aspect. A white Spanish teacher can be the same as an old Russian lady because they are both hard rock fans. Future of identity is de-compartmentalisation. (On a side note, check out Clay Shirky’s “Here comes everybody. Fantastic and pretty accessible read on this topic and a few others.)
  • Identity is a process, not a finished product. When you define something, you finish it. And that challenges the practice of branding — which normally aims to define and design (finished) things.

Linking identity and brand

And continuing the conversation, here’s my takeaways from the many great thoughts shared around the table:

  • If completely new things are completely unrelatable (there is no empathy between them and people), then how about innovation? Is the role of innovation not to create something completely new? Or perhaps innovation is, in fact, creating something relatable, but slightly less then everything else we already have in our lives.
  • In the context of identity as a means to relate to the world, brands become the lifestyle communication of one’s identity.
  • When you’re missing a clear sense of identity, you borrow identity from the things around you that do have a strong identity: what you buy, what you wear, what you use, what you listen to. So in this context, identity is something you relate personally with, while branding is something you create in the absence of identity.
  • There is a tension creative people have: between representing the reality, and imagining something new. Which is where might the unrealistic (we’ll not call it fake) feeling of brands might come from. Perhaps a more philosophical explication is that the creative mind needs to create aspiration.
  • Do we crave to have leaders because we crave to have identity that we don’t have? Is that why we look up to Steves, Elons and Queen B’s?
  • Personal branding is bs. Attempt to brand one’s self is, in fact, creating a sort of meta identity. It’s reinforcing the tension between what I am and what I want to be.
  • Collective identity might not exist, only individual identity. On one hand the meaning of who the collective is is changing. And on the other, aren’t the collective experiences and beliefs, in fact, culture?

Design Strategist. I analyse stuff and have opinions about it.