Basel: Reduction vs. complexity

I just had the pleasure of sitting in on a lecture about identity design by Michael Renner, currently Head of the Visual Communication Institute at The Basel School of Design. His review of the creation of marks and systems was very well thought-out and inspiring, but of particular interest to me was the student work he showed at the end of his lecture-- work that explores the signs and symbols people choose to communicate their individuality--their identity. This work is quite unlike anything I had ever seen come out of Basel. The idea of exploring the meanings expressed in complexity is certainly not an idea I naturally associate with Swiss design education, the long-time champion of boiled-down-to-the-essence, ever-simplified reduction. Neither the individual nor the individuality of subjects and objects was high on the list of values in former Basel eras. This exploration of identity and complexity in the layering of meaning represents a sea-change in the way design education is being examined and redefined at Basel. I tip my hat to Michael Renner for balancing reduction and complexity in the current equation.