L’Autre Soie, a participative visual identity!

06 January 2019  |   0 Comments   |    |  

In this article we will present you with a visual identity project that goes off the beaten track. An adventure of collective design that was an opportunity to question the role of visual identity outside the traditional institutional and commercial fields. Our challenge was to try to answer the question:

What would a horizontal, participative and inclusive visual identity look like? 

An exciting question that goes far beyond the initial scope of the project and questions co-creation and the notion of authority. Strangely, the word "authority" derives from Latin from Latin auctoritas, meaning the ability to make people grow (verticality!). Anyway... we're not going to tell you everything in the introduction!

We will therefore present you in detail this adventure of the Autre Soie.
The article is long, impatients are allowed to scroll down to discover the design result. For others, we hope that reading this article will inspire you, and that you will want to participate by drawing.

To facilitate your navigation in the article, here is a short summary:

01 : The call for tenders

02 : A participative visual identity

03: The ordinary adventure

04: Participate! 

L'autre Soie, a Third-Place

L'Autre Soie is a project that combines housing, social and solidarity economy and culture in Villeurbanne, near Lyon, France.

Located on the site of a former IUFM (training institution for public education professionals), in the perimeter of the "Carré de Soie" ("Silk district"), it will combine housing reserved for people in difficulty as well as places dedicated to culture and the social and solidarity economy. This project, winner of the European Urban Innovative Actions call for projects, has just been awarded a grant of 5 million euros, which means that the project is innovative!

Behind this utopian project, halfway between social housing and third-place, there is an economic interest group composed of 4 members: AlyneaAralisEst Métropole Habitat (EMH) and Rhône Saône Habitat (RSH). They are also accompanied by the CCO, the Villeurbanne Cultural Centre.

At the beginning, there is the intuition that the city is a place of dense and intense interactions where it is necessary to put the human being at the heart of the urban project. It is therefore necessary to rethink the uses of the city, on the imagination of new actions centred on living and doing together. For a city open to all.

The ambition is to make the Autre Soie a creative and attractive place in the agglomeration with a strong citizen involvement in the design and implementation of the project. It will be a district where the inhabitants will be the carriers of resources for the territory. Everyone, in their diversity, will be able to find their place and have a social, cultural and economic environment that contributes to the development of their capacity to act.

In other words, this is not the kind of project that we see emerging every day. In a world where so many borders are closing, this little local utopia is good. A little utopia?.... No, we should talk about great reality, since the project will be financed to the tune of 75 million euros!

Step 01, the call for tenders

When we left the presentation meeting, we immediately went to the site of the Autre Soie. We took advantage of this impromptu visit to meet its current inhabitants.

Indeed, the building welcomed 150 migrants, mainly from the Calais jungle. After some exchanges, and despite the language barrier, we asked them to write "L'autre Soie" in their native language. The name "L'autre Soie" is not easy to understand in French, with its double reading, on the one hand the reference to the Silk district which takes its name from the many textile factories, and then on the other hand this notion of otherness "the other and oneself"... so, not mastering neither the Afghan nor the Syrian, we did our best with gestual explanations.

At this stage of the project, we had no idea what we were going to do with these words. In fact, we can tell you, we will not do anything about it in the end. Finally, not totally... this meeting had the merit of immersing us very quickly in the subject, and consolidating our motivation to propose a project as utopian and humanistic as their third-place!

The detailed study of the specifications will only reinforce this desire. When reading each line of the document, we conscientiously know the words that converged in the same direction.... Sharing, opening, meeting, social, ecological...

Below, you will find the different notions (cf: otherness, territory, places, third-places...) that we questioned before starting our research.


• Alive
• Innovative
• Dignity
• Integration
• Renovation
• Ecological
• Connected to the city

• Participative
• Commitment
• Social
• Respect
• Diversity
• Citizenship
• Patrimony
• Sharing
• Openness

Questioning otherness

Otherness is the recognition of the other in his difference, whether ethnic, social, cultural or religious. Questioning about otherness leads us to wonder about what is other (alter) than us (ego), about our relations with it, about the means of knowing it, about the possibility of existing without it, if it constitutes a threat to our identity.

Otherness is different from tolerance, because it implies an understanding of the particularities of each individual, the ability to be open to different cultures and their interbreeding.

Territory, places and links

The territory can be defined as a real and dreamed space made up of places that are linked together. It includes paths, networks made up of strengths and weaknesses. This space is in interaction with its actors.

A territory is also signs, symbols, words, images inscribed in time. Links or places, what is more visible? Does the multiplication of links make places more visible?

Sharing humanity

Third-places, by facilitating encounters, sharing, innovation, pooling resources, and taking greater account of people and the environmental context, offer relevant spaces for solidarity, value creation and local development.

Space of possibilities

Third-places are spaces of freedom, places of invention and workshops of singular shaping of collective organizations. These are spaces of possibilities.

How can we make visible the links that unite us to others?

To try to answer this question, we had fun in the square next to the office. In addition to the recreational aspect of this experience, it was an opportunity for Jeremy, our apprentice, to experience point tracking under After Effects!


Step 02:
A participative visual identity

After this conceptual analysis phase, we still had to come up with a visual identity project. It's not all about manipulating concepts, we had to propose a tangible project!

We knew that we could not approach this project in the traditional way. We were at the opposite end of the spectrum from traditional branding, and proposing a statutory sign (or even worse "authoritarian") would have been a misnomer.
We had to find an idea as crazy and horizontal as the project!

The idea emerged in one of these long collective brainstorming sessions. At the beginning, there is this idea of the points to connect to draw something. Like in those kids' coloring books.  Then by purifying the idea to its maximum, we came up with the idea that the logo would be an invitation to connect the Other ("l'Autre") to Oneself ("Soi(e)"). In the end, the logo only exists once the points are connected.

And no matter if the dots are physically or mentally connected, it is in this action that the words become signs, and the logo appears. From then on, the person looking at the logo becomes co-author of the logo!

If we push the reasoning, we should share our design rights with all those who have completed this logo! We can reassure you on that, we didn't get rich with this project!
Finally, it should be noted that the rule of the game is not binary, since a third point has slipped into the name. As an invitation to hijack the rule.

A visual identity as a manifesto

A manifesto that makes the link between us and the other tangible and concrete.

A rule of the game that invites us to do it together.

As a collective and participatory work that allows us to question the principle of otherness.

A space of free expression, open and in the making.

logo génératif et participatif

Long live participative branding!

The challenges related to the design of a visual identity are numerous. Public image, made up of a set of signs that give it its coherence, the visual identity must simultaneously identify and make a difference, be recognized and set a limit.

This notion also raises the question of visibility, the blurring of identities, the competition between signs in the public space, and conversely, anonymity.

The notion of identity was invariably associated with the logo, with the brand as a unique, versatile sign, because it could be used on any medium. However, this graphic solution has found its limits in the repetition and uniformity it generates.

The logo - as a word with its speakers, code and audiences - is obviously essential. However, we may wonder how to extend and develop this word, how to adapt it to the specificity of the multiple supports that are called upon to carry it in the public space.

Today, we are witnessing a transformation, both in terms of content and form, of the monolithic archetype of the logo that we all know.

Times and needs have therefore changed. No more unique discourse repeated over and over again, and long live the evolution that allows us to take into account the singularity of individuals, projects, periods and events.

Thus the logo of the Autre Soie is continuously reinvented, while maintaining the coherence and recognition necessary for a brand. This participatory identity can therefore be seen as a response in line with its time (cf: more horizontality) where authority is shared. Authority, which can be read as much in the sense of "what confers power to act on others" as in the sense of "the author's authority", the one who "authorizes oneself" and "increases the other".  The two words author and authority being historically and etymologically linked. Authority, height, author... what a strange mixture of vertical words!

A participative audition

At this stage of the project, we were still mere candidates for this call for tenders.  We had to defend this iconoclastic project before an assembly of a dozen people. And a simple PowerPoint presentation would have been counterproductive. So we considered testing our concept directly with them. The objective was that at the end of the presentation, everyone could participate in the production of a brochure on the Autre Soie.

So we landed with our reams of paper, our Posca markers and the office printer, and in 45 minutes we had made about ten unique copies. These are the small A5 brochures presented below.

atelier appel d'offre

A unique typography

The identity is based on the Storno, a typography designed by Lineto.  Its very "standard" design contrasts with the joviality of its large dots on the "i's", thus allowing many graphic games.

It is a typography that exists in only one style. A form of minimalism that limits unnecessary effects within the layout. Therefore, only the word scale will allow to establish reading levels. A constraint that will have disrupted more than one member of the project's steering committee!

typographie autre soie

We had also imagined a name architecture for the different entities of the project. Probably more of a poetic game than a functional proposal. But at this stage, wasn't it necessary to open up the field of possibilities?

This principle inspired the invitation card for the inauguration....."L'autre quoi ? moi ? toi ? toit ? Soie ?" (The other what? Me? You? You? Roof? Silk? Self?"...)

Communication media

Once the project was selected, we had to implement this identity. So we started by designing the press kit and the invitation. A black and white print on papers of different sizes and colours.

Step 03:
The ordinary adventure!

The first deadline was the day entitled "The Ordinary Adventure" organized by the CCO. The aim was to invite about a hundred volunteers over a weekend to reflect in "creative marathon" mode on the future orientations of the project. It was a kind of Museomix around issues such as urban planning, housing, participatory gardens, culture for all.... On Sunday, the general public was invited to discover the exhibition presenting their thoughts. We were in charge of setting up the exhibition during the night!

An inaugural gesture was also planned. Since there is no first stone to lay yet, we had suggested that they collectively trace the first link. It was therefore the Director of the CCO and the Director of the GIE who launched themselves first, followed by all the participants. A joyful graphic cacophony as shown in the video below.

There is obviously in this inaugural happening a form of assumed " mess ". By choosing to entrust the pencil to the Other ("L'Autre"), the one who is not a graphic designer for example, you have to accept that his drawing is not as well mastered as if it were made by a professional. That's also what horizontality is all about!

Moreover, it was fun to discover the pictures of the officials in front of this rock n' roll wall!

The exhibition

At the end of the collective reflection day, we had to recover all the teams' productions, then set up the exhibition during the night. Given the time available, and by economic logic, we recycled large grids on the abandoned IUFM site. And then we manufactured and installed the printed panels on the coloured papers. An epic and surreal night, alone in this huge empty building, with the company of a guard and his dog more than nervous.

Ci-dessus, quelques images 3D pour simuler l'imposition des panneaux.

panneau exposition muséographie DIY

The participative workshops

During the day open to the public, we also facilitated a participatory workshop. Visitors, young and old, were invited to freely draw a link between the Other ("L'Autre") and Oneself ("Soi(e)"). The objective is to create a "bank of links" to be used to enrich the future communication of the place.

Another exercise consisted in composing a drawing from a key word (ex: sharing, friendship, living...) on the basis of points, a priori randomly placed on the page. Once the interpretation of the word was finished, we would pass the drawing through the printer, and a quotation would be printed in superposition. The initial points merging with the points of the typography. Well, okay, it's not easy to write about, but Klervi explains it very well in the video below!

exposition de dessin Autre Soie

About a hundred drawings were made during the workshop. The system was extended online on the site of the Autre-Soie. Indeed, to access the site, the Internet user was invited to connect the "Autre" to the "Soie" and therefore to draw freely. Here are some examples of illustrations made online!

Thanks to Uniball for supporting this workshop by providing several boxes of their famous Posca markers free of charge!

Step 04:

As mentioned above, the homepage of the Autre Soie site is composed of a drawing module (not available in mobile version). To enter the site, you must connect the "Autre" to  the "Soie". Currently, by default, drawings are not saved automatically, but if you click on "share", then on the Twitter icon, the drawing will be saved and you can get the link to your creation. A link that will look like "https://autresoie.com/?drawing=MTU0NjgwNDIxOS43MzAx"!

All you have to do is copy this link and share it as a comment at the bottom of this page : -)

PS: The website was designed and created by the Lyon-based agency Kolle-Bolle.

Thank you!

We must of course thank our sponsors for the trust they have placed in us. The project was not always easy to grasp and deploy. Thanks to Fernanda Leite and Tanguy Guézo of the CCO, and Françoise Lagarde and Célia Germain of Est Métropole Habitat.

Thanks to Jean-Baptiste Joaton for his help in developing the participatory drawing module.

Thanks also to Klervi, Gaspard and Céline from the Graphéine team who were involved with passion and commitment in this adventure. And thanks again to Posca for their kind material support!

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