Posted by: glue | April 5, 2009

The Branding of the Disaster

As a consultant for the EmerAgency (egent), I take on a disaster as a client:  the Cabot-Koppers Superfund site in Gainesville, Florida, for example.  The event of disaster interrupts the restricted economy of branding, introducing into the safety of commodity form the insights of Bataille’s general economy.  Brand identity is the site of identity formation within electracy (apparatus shift).  The circulation of logos (and the punceptual quality of that term confirms the usefulness of this strategy) in an experience economy is a pidgin communication that may become a creole, a full-featured discourse, capable of thinking fully within the axis of well-being:  aesthetic judgment of pleasure/pain. The qualities that recommend good logo design (immediate recognition of identity, evoking entity values and beliefs) to commodity form also extend to flash reason, supporting deliberative reason in a dromosphere.

Business As Usual

Business As Usual

One way to approach the consultancy is to design a logo expressing the brand identity for environmental pollution.  Like most disasters, the scene of the Gainesville Superfund Site was already branded, or rather, was the setting for a branded identity in operation.   The wood treatment business operated on the site since 1916 was sold by Cabot Corporation in 1967.  The company has continued its investment (on “our” behalf) in industrial pollution, associated with Carbon Black, and the mining of coltan in the Congo.

Color Icon

Color Icon

One approach to branding a disaster is to use the existing logo occupying the scene as the point of departure for the event icon.   The Cabot logo is well-designed, in that the CC  monogram alludes (intentionally or not?) to the sickle shape and color used in the design of the biohazard warning sign. A similar shape is also found in the look of a Cylon Raider (Battlestar Galactica).

The End of the (Human) Order

Cabot Raider

The Cylons, as is well-known to fans of the TV series, Battlestar Galactica, nearly eliminated the human species in a nuclear surprise attack.  The raider, like the “toaster” Cylon soldiers, is a form of artificial life originally created by humans.  A design for the event logo, if not for the disaster as a brand, now suggests itself.  The “C” shapes of the Cabot initials are replaced by intertwined Cylon Raiders (mating, perhaps?), one black, and one biohazard orange.  The modified logo is immediately legible, within the limits of any pop culture reference, with the threat to human well-being caused by chemical pollution expressed through the significance of the Cylon Raider.   Next:  open photoshop and get to work.


  1. Detournement

    This design proposal is an application of the Situationist strategy of detournement.. Here is Debord’s instructions. Adbusters has taken the principle into the mainstream of journalism.

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