The Dutch design research studio, Metahaven, took a bold, newsworthy step last weekend in Amsterdam by proposing new graphic identity options for WikiLeaks. Presenting at the conference, "I Don't Know Where I'm Going But I Want To Be There," sponsored by the Graphic Design Museum of Breda, The Netherlands, Metahaven partner Daniel van der Velden suggested new approaches for WikiLeaks' visual identity. (His partner and collaborator is Vinca Kruk.)
Metahaven reached out to Julian Assange, the infamous founder of WikiLeaks, in June 2010 (way before the controversy started) with an email proposal that they revisit the WikiLeaks graphic identity, and they received a succinct reply: "Absolutely, J.A." Consistent with a proactive stance towards design research, this message was enough for Metahaven to assume they had a project and a client. They have since proceeded to map the network supporting WikiLeaks, an image economy where network architecture, hosting, funders, and media all play key roles. Described as "transparent camouflage," the world of WikiLeaks mutates under the pressures of secrecy versus transparency: ironically it's network is secret in order to publish freely. In fact, Metahaven has suggested that its map of WikiLeaks cannot be published or shared — it's too accurate for a WikiLeaks under investigation and potential indictment in numerous countries. Further, we should consider the "zones of journalism" that simultaneously support and critique the impact of WikiLeaks.
One hopes that Metahaven will fully publish its work for WikiLeaks on their site. Metahaven's information map of WikiLeaks is the most important part of their work, and reminds me of the work of Mark Lombardi, conspiracy theories and all. In the meantime, they are releasing ("leaking") posters in support of WikiLeaks for every country in the world.
The images below do not do justice to the work of Metahaven, and are only directional in suggesting the range of proposals they have suggested for a new WikiLeaks identity. This said, I was disappointed that there was not a more concrete WikiLeaks proposal. Metahaven seems to always want to explore and publish many options as a part of their research, much like design students. Yes, I can find a bit of Dutch formalism, a bit of petri-dish scientific formalism, or a bit of IKEA formalism. But I don't see a new identity for Wikileaks that supports them in crisis, or critically suggests that they are in fact doing damage. I keep wishing that Metahaven would take a firmer stand.
This critique aside, Metahaven was the only firm at "I Don't Know Where I'm Going But I Want To Be There" to present fundamentally new work — and work that grapples with a truly contemporary political issue. Kudos.