Week Four: The Self & Identity

Updated: Dec 12, 2020

Lecture Reflection: 'The Self'

For centuries humans have been fascinated with ‘The Self’, from self-portraits to selfies, we go through life taking on different roles and facades, to quote Shakespeare,

“All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.” William Shakespeare

Those seven ages being (in summary) from infancy, adulthood, and old age. In the lecture, Martin Hoskins mentions how there are 450 words in the English language that use ‘self’, which I might argue is a little, self-indulgent. However, as much we like to see ourselves as individuals, we have far more similarities than differences. Our feelings, emotions, the fact we need to eat, drink, sleep and work to do so. But what makes us, us? As Martin mentions in the lecture there’s the ongoing debate as to whether who we are is reliant on either nature or nurture. Were we always destined to be the people that we are, or has the way we’ve been brought up had influences? I guess the reason that debate is ongoing is that it’s a mixture of the two. Firstly, where I was born impacted my life massively. Being born in the UK and having a UK passport has meant that I’m able to travel freely to most countries around the world for instance. I haven’t been brought up in a culture where I’ve had to follow any certain religion, and there are 4,300 religions in the world! Like us, religions might share a lot of similarities but they also have a lot of differences. Being born into a wealthy family would also heavily affect my upbringing, the schools I’d go to, the friends I'd have.

We share a lot of similarities when it comes to behaviour too. Martin discusses the Nudge in the lecture where we’re influenced into a decision by (what we might feel) is of our own accord. A nudge isn’t telling us to do, or, not to do something, it’s merely giving a suggestion. For example, supermarkets are full of nudges through special offers, buy one get one free and the general layout is almost like a pinball machine, setting us on a course that marches us through various aisles of temptation when all we want is a pint of soy milk! In summary, “Supermarkets are meticulously designed to get you to spend more money,” (Business Insider, 2012). There are two “systems” when it comes to decision making, the first one being a decision process we make with little thought, an almost unconscious process, such as the nudge. The second system of thinking is one that requires us to do more research, discuss with others, a decision that requires more consideration. Something like buying a house would fall into system two. How do we make a decision so big as buying a house, with so many things to consider? Freud (1915) came up with the iceberg model, where our conscious selves make up just a small percentage that’s visible in regards to our whole selves. The most important part of ourselves is hidden within our minds, this is where our feelings are, past experiences (both positive and negative), our dreams and so on. All these aspects alter how we see the world

Within the lecture, Martin mentioned the ink blot test or Rorschach test.

This is a psychological test in which subjects' perceptions of inkblots are recorded and then analysed using psychological interpretation, complex algorithms, or both. Some psychologists use this test to examine a person's personality characteristics and emotional functioning. It has been employed to detect underlying thought disorder, especially in cases where patients are reluctant to describe their thinking processes openly. The test is named after its creator, Swiss psychologist Hermann Rorschach. The Rorschach can be thought of as a psychometric examination of pareidolia, the active pattern of perceiving objects, shapes, or scenery as meaningful things to the observer's experience, the most common being faces or other pattern of forms that are not present at the time of the observation. In the 1960s, the Rorschach was the most widely used projective test.

Image: Image: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/501658845997564886/

We’re constantly in a debate with the, Id, Ego, and Super-ego, the id contains our primitive thinking, such as our sexual desires whereas the ego is like our inner Rockstar, wanting to be the best, to win and show off, that wants that nice suit and expensive watch with the superego being the mediator between the two, keeping us grounded and allowing us to function properly within society. Freud argued that the confliction between our sexual urges and the repression of them from the superego lay at the heart of the human condition. However, Jung argued that this wasn’t the case. Jung believed that the ego and our need for a meaningful life are what drives us. As mentioned in the lecture, he famously said: “man cannot stand a meaningless life.” Jung spoke of archetypes that we project onto the outside world from within. Through stories from when we were children, some of which have been passed down from many generations, and films we make perceptions and perceive people to be an idea that’s in our mind, that has been constructed. Of course, stories might have been created from as far back as Neanderthal times as a way to provoke fear in children for their protection, “Don’t go into the woods as a scary man lives there!” Now, we see these archetypes daily within, not only films and television programmes but in advertising. Assigning an archetype to a product makes it more sellable by giving it more meaning. Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays understood that human desires were behind their consumerist decision-making processes, using Freud's theories such as our sexual desires to market products. Advertisers were no longer advertising products to fulfil needs but desires and aspirations.

Image: https://in.pinterest.com/pin/366973069614472878/

We’re now in the time of the digital self, using selfies posted on Instagram and other social networks to prove our existence on to the world. Our egos are now visible as well as our ideal selves.

Image: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Id,_ego_and_super-ego

The Self: East and West

One thing I've noticed in my transition from west to east is the different attitudes in regards to the self and the ego. The west seems to be driven by an individualistic mentality whereas the east has more of a group mentality. One example of this is with the current Coronavirus pandemic and attitudes to wearing a face mask, people in the west are more resilient about wearing one in comparison to people in the east who are more obedient. I wanted to look into this further by researching advertisements and make comparisons between how a product is advertised in the west compared to the east. I came across a study titled, 'A different smile, a different story: Global advertising adaption for Chinese consumers'. Within the study two Coca-cola adverts from the 1920's are compared, one Chinese and the other American. It's discussed how the two adverts are very similar yet there are subtle differences. The way the Chinese lady appears in the advert seems to be more traditional through her dress which covers most of her body where as the lady in the American advertisement is wearing a dress that does'nt reflect traditional values and is more flamboyant. The lady in the American advert is showing the top part of her chest too and appears to be more relaxed.

A lot has changed since the 1920's but with my experiences in Taiwan I still feel it's a country with strong traditional values and group mentality in comparison to a more liberal, individualistic attitude in the west.

Image: https://www.coca-cola.co.uk/our-business/history/1920s

Image: http://www.vintageadbrowser.com/coke-ads-1920s

Image: http://www.vintageadbrowser.com/coke-ads-1920s

Workshop Challenge

I initially wrote the best twenty words that I thought best described my character and highlighted the five I felt were the strongest. In creating the mood board I wanted to choose my own images as I wanted to create an authenticity and use images that were truly connected to me and myself.

Mood board Images

The images below are my own, taken by me, and interestingly capture my words perfectly.











I also realised that the words themselves could be altered to reflect their own meaning. The example in my sketchbook was the word ‘imposter.' The Cambridge dictionary defines imposter as, “a person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others.” By highlighting an individual letter from that word I could make that letter look as though it was the imposter. This then reminded me of a trip I took to the Taiwan Design Museum where I was drawn to Bruno Munari's beautiful ABC book which he created in 1945 after he turned to creating children's books after his son Alberto was born. There were other artefacts at the museum that also made me think about how type and letters could be an image in themselves.

Photos taken at the Taiwan Design Museum

I also like this puzzle created by Munari, it shows how with just a few simple shapes an slight manipulation it's possible to make the whole alphabet.

Image (above): https://www.moma.org/collection/works/147958

I took the words 'Foolish' and 'Philosophical' and began playing with them in Illustrator to see how I could alter them to reflect their meaning.

I then began playing with my own name to see how I could incorporate my five words.

This went through different stages of refinement.

In our Crit, Paul mentioned that I should make my image animated, the mouth especially. I loved the idea of incorporating animation into my design so created another image, exactly the same but with the mouth closed. Then ,by adding the two together I could make them into a GIF.

Final Draft

Words that sat with me during Daniel Eatock's guest lecture was, "Reduce everything." I decided to remove the text and keep the animation. I still feel that this animation reflects my five words, but it's not giving them away so obviously like my previous draft might have done.


It has been fun playing with type for this project. I've learnt to convey a words meaning through using the actual word itself. I've learnt to simplify everything and to not give too much away, not be too literal. There's a fear that your audience is going to get the message intended but that doesn't mean you give out all the information, part of our job is to refine everything and I feel I've done that with this workshop challenge.


The Museum of Modern Art. (n.d.). Bruno Munari. ABC con fantasia (ABC with Imagination). 1960 | MoMA. [online] Available at: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/147958 [Accessed 23 Nov. 2020].

Wikipedia Contributors (2019). Rorschach test. [online] Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rorschach_test.

Lin, S. and Zhao, X. (2012). Paper A different smile, a different story: Global advertising adaptation for Chinese consumers by. [online] Available at: https://www.tilburguniversity.edu/sites/default/files/download/tpcs%20paper32_2.pdf.

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