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A Visual Investigation of Feminism. A deconstruction of visual culture towards the design of a new visual language

Feminism plays a crucial role in our society, as does visual communication. The designer and author of this thesis supports the values of feminism and believes in its transformative power over our society. While the feminist movement has been active since the beginning of the 20th century, the designer feels it has gained less support than is warranted. Until we have achieved a society in which true equality is a key facet, feminism will always require more support. This master thesis is an investigation of feminism and its visual representation, with the aim of suggesting a distinctive visual language that embodies and embraces feminist ideals.
On an abstract level, this thesis will discuss the relationship between a message and its delivery, as well as the importance of the work of the designer when communicating visually. At its most basic level, visual communication design is a creative process that combines the visual arts and technology to communicate ideas. The visuals are expressions of the core concept. When applying this methodology to feminism, we can separate feminist propaganda into two main categories: the first being “punk” feminism; distinguishable by sharp, aggressive, imagery that is often connected to protest and demonstration. The second approach is the contemporary “pink-washed” or “pop” feminism, meant to offer a fresh viewpoint and make an often serious topic more approachable by the broader public (although it is often criticized for catering primarily to a cis, white and young female demographic exclusively). Feminism stands for equality of sexes regardless of ethnicity and sexual orientation. Why does the visual portrayal not embody this principle?
To begin this process of exploration, the designer approached different feminist currents and styles and mixed often disparate or unrelated visual elements together, with the aim of disrupting and deconstructing the stereotypical approaches to feminist visual design. Due to the experimental nature of this process, the final output was initially difficult to predict. The process-based methodology of the Basel School of Design was a key point in her investigation: to discover the unknown, one needs to be willing to keep trying new things, with the hope that something interesting will eventually emerge. Feminist activism played a key motivational role in the work of the designer during the writing of this thesis.
The research that has been conducted is based on a series of different experiments, each questioning different aspects of feminism and the way these aspects are represented. From a literal translation to a radical hacking, from digital design to analogue glitch. Through analyzing the outcome, it was possible to combine theory and practice to generate new ideas and propose a relevant alternative that can embody inclusivity within the domain of visual design. As a conclusion of her studies, the designer does not produce a definitive new visual language, but rather reveals potential possibilities for change and the raising of awareness.
Basel, 2019