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Tania Messell

MA work

Unity in a Tangled World: The Introduction and Development of Corporate Identity Programmes in France, 1950–1975

Cohesive corporate design programmes were developed in the context of post-war economic prosperity, during which the scope of major companies expanded in both size and activity. At a time when these companies were modifying their organisation through significant restructuring and the development of their commercial departments, cohesive corporate identities were created to encourage the recognition, and thus success, of their products and services in increasingly complex markets. In this context, design had become a key tool in the achievement of corporate goals and aspirations.

As little had been written on the subject in France, I set out to examine why, by whom and how the first corporate identities were introduced and developed between 1950 and 1975. In order to trace the introduction and application of these, I examine the ‘five-and-dime’ store (magasin populaire) Prisunic through an analysis of its retail spaces, the electrical equipment producer Merlin Gerin through an examination of its printed materials and the airline UTA through an examination of its key agent, the aircraft itself. As the research reveals, the companies’ design commissions went hand in hand with their expansion during the social unrest and heavy de-skilling that resulted from their increasingly fragmented organisation. Cohesive corporate identity thus acted as a unifying tool for the companies’ external and internal image while revealing the strategies developed by French designers in order to create an image that satisfied the companies’ desire to appear modern, unified, and ubiquitous.    


  • portrait
  • MA Degree


    School of Humanities


    MA History of Design, 2014

  • I entered the course with a strong interest in the idea of Gesamtkunstwerk or total works of art, in which the systematisation of art and design aims at creating a cohesive whole. I have since written on the visual identity developed by the early-20th-century Viennese Wiener Werkstätte and the branding of place-based craft through an examination of the marketing of Provencal ceramics, while acting as a co-editor of the Unmaking Things column Design*systems which further explores the topic. For my last year, I focused on the development of early corporate identities for French companies between 1950 and 1975, through an exploration of corporate identities both as multidisciplinary design processes and pervasive corporate tools. 

  • Degrees

  • BA Fine Arts, HEAD (Haute Ecole d'Art et de Design), Geneva, 2011; Preparatory year in Visual Communication, Intuit Lab, Aix-en-Provence, 2008
  • Experience

  • Editor, design*systems, Unmaking Things, London, 2013–2014; Research volunteer, V&A, London, 2013
  • Awards

  • The Montjoie Prize, Royal College of Art, 2013
  • Publications

  • 'Patterns as binding agents', Unmaking Things, 2013