Identity consultancy is much more than just plastic surgery

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In his piece A visit to the body shop (DW 23 January) Michael Evamy writes: “But, who knows, in 20 or 30 years’ time the term ‘identity consultant’ might be taken over by someone who helps clients develop their personal identity: designing not new logos but new faces.”

I realise he’s being flippant, but it’s not his humour I have a problem with. It’s the way he perpetuates the misapprehension that identity consultancy is in some way a “corporate face-lift”.

Visual identity is a very simple proposition, so it is surprising that it is so frequently misrepresented in this way. Baldly stated, it consists of finding ways to represent emblematically the character – the “ethos”, in the original sense of that word – of an organisation. The result is a “signature” that should both feel appropriate and exercise a beneficial influence over those it represents.

How is this similar to cosmetic surgery? The straightforward answer is that it is not. Cosmetic surgeons may do wonders for their patients’ morale, but hardly help them to discover themselves.

Visual identity, on the other hand, can be literally healing – coming from a millennia-old tradition of using symbols to bring people together and make them whole.

If you have to make an analogy with one-on-one therapeutic practice, it would have to be with the Jungian therapist helping the client towards “individuation” by grasping the significance of the archetypes as they manifest in the client’s life.

Certainly, in my work, I have always found that much more was achieved through listening to the client on the couch than by putting them under the knife.

James Souttar

Identity consultant

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