Brand Archaeology: Delving into the Past to Address the Future


Dr. Pedro Carvalho de Almeida University of Porto and Central Saint Martins

Central Saint Martins Culture and Enterprise Room C106

12 June 2017 14:00


‘Brand Archaeology’ is a practice-based research activity in design and brand identity (de Almeida, 2012). It employs hands-on methods to recover, organize and utilize entrepreneurial and private archives from heritage brands. By addressing the relevance of brand archives to companies, designers, and cultural institutions, the approach represents a critique and a response to how the unique cultural legacy of native brands is often overlooked and tends to dissolve amongst global influences. In this context, the generated wealth of historical and symbolically charged material culture proves a key organizational asset, and a critical strategic resource for content development and brand innovation.

This presentation introduces a collaborative research initiative culminating in ‘Cortebel 50’, a project that pays homage to the industrial legacy of iconic Portuguese footwear manufacturer, Cortebel, in its 50th year of operation. Its practical component involves brand archaeology, along with a design intervention exercising the tenets of ‘Designrascar’ in an industrial setting beset with infrastructural and resource- based constraints. The core objective of the ‘Designrascar’ approach is to promote the efficacy of ‘design by doing’ as a viable method for charting and navigating unpredictable territories in constantly shifting socio-economic landscapes. It endorses a hands-on approach to design and acknowledges circumstantial constraints as factors that inspire imaginativeness beyond understood thresholds.

The intervention which will be presented evolved through two main courses of action. One for leveraging in-stock materials through improvised admixing, the second seeking strategic partnerships with manufacturers
of textile materials not conventionally associated with footwear.

The reasoning behind the latter is to consider already existing varieties, instead of developing new materials, and to re- contextualize them as per requirement. One such partnership has been formed with Heranças do Passado, a non-for- profit association established to document, preserve and sustain the production of Almalaguês fabric.

Almalaguês is a traditional weaving technique, possibly dating back to the 11th century, homonymous with the village of its origin near Coimbra, Portugal. This traditional knowledge has been kept alive through many generations of weavers. However, according to research findings Almalaguês textile
faces an uncertain future due to a myriad of factors, including a lack of formal studies and inadequate promotion. It thereby remains largely unacknowledged despite its cultural significance and creative potential, which this project aims to address.

Outcomes include the production of an exclusive series of ‘Cortebel 50’ footwear in Almalaguês, using original designs and machinery from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

Dr. Pedro Carvalho de Almeida is a communication designer specialising in brand identity. He is assistant professor of design at the University of Aveiro, Portugal. He is currently undertaking a post-doctoral research project on brand archaeology (funded by FCT, Portugal) based at the Research Institute of Design Media and Culture (ID+) in Porto, in collaboration with Central Saint Martins University of the Arts London (CSM–UAL) where he completed his PhD (Brand Archives, 2012). His research interests address the recovery, organization and creative use of entrepreneurial and private archives as generative resources for brand innovation. As a design consultant he has worked with a range of organisations across Portugal and in the UK. He has international experience in Design education and research, including at Central Saint Martins (funded by AHRC), ENSCI-Les Ateliers Paris, and The Glasgow School of Art.