Sub-theme 09: (SWG) Identity in Art, Design and Organization

Stefan Meisiek
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Ariane Berthoin Antal
Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB), Germany
Steven Scott Taylor
Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA

Call for Papers

Identity work is central to art, to design, and to organizations. The construction, maintenance, change, and communication of individual and collective identity play out when these worlds meet. Artists and designers working with organizational problems "sense" the organization and place their own identity into relationship with it. Here identity is a fundamentally aesthetic phenomenon – it is felt, embodied, and can be worked with via presentational forms.

Scholars of individual identity look at how it becomes constructed and deconstructed, how individuals claim identity for themselves and have identities thrust upon them, and the complex negotiation between the two. Interactions with artists and designers can affect the identity of individuals in organizations, too. The managers who invite artists into their organization reveal a part of their identity as cultural beings that may enhance their image, or put it at risk as elitist. The collaboration of artists and designers with members of organizations creates situations in which employees reconsider and sometimes expand their identity at work and beyond.

Intermediary organizations bridge between the worlds of the arts and design on the one hand, and the world of organizations on the other. They often fulfill an identity-buffering function, allowing the members of each world to maintain their distinct identities while working together. Identity is sometimes treated as a central, distinctive and enduring feature of organizations (e.g. Albert & Whetten, 1985), or seen as a process of becoming between culture, identity, and image (e.g. Hatch & Schultz, 2002). Then, there are critics who deconstruct identity management efforts, forming a third approach (e.g. Alvesson & Wilmott, 2002). In all three approaches, art and design can be seen as ways in which organizations explore, develop, and communicate identity, but little research has been conducted to draw out these ideas.

There is much to do for ADO! We envisage addressing identity at the nexus of art-design-and-organizations through many lenses and examples. Among the questions contributors may want to explore are:

  • How can we conceptualize the work that artists/designers do around organizational identities?
  • How do artists/designers open space/minds and processes for altering how aspects of organizational identity are treated?
  • To what extent do artists/designers approach contradiction, paradox, and complexity differently than people outside their worlds?
  • What roles do boundary objects and intermediary organizations play in the process of identity work between artists/designers and members of host/client organizations?
  • What is the role of identity in the art, design, and management professions?
  • How do artists/designers' identities work for and against them when interacting with clients/organizations?
  • How do artists and designers differ in addressing an organization's identity?
  • What relationships do artists/designers have with the works they create and the organizations they engage with in non-Western cultures?
  • How does organizational identity theory address and complement art/design practices aimed at helping companies formulate, change or express their corporate identities?
  • Does branding theory open windows on working with clients using art/design methods to inform organizational identity processes?

Interested? If so, please submit a short paper about what you are doing in this area. In the tradition of the ADO sub-theme, we welcome creative contributions, and plan to design the conference days for conversation, development, and exploration.



Albert, Stuart & David Whetten (1985): 'Organizational identity.' Research in Organizational Behavior, 7, 263–295.
Alvesson, Mats & Hugh Willmott (2002): 'Identity regulation as organizational control: producing the appropriate individual.' Journal of Management Studies, 39 (5), 619–644.
Hatch, Mary Jo & Majken Schultz (2002): 'The dynamics of organizational identity.' Human Relations, 55 (8), 989–1018.


Stefan Meisiek is Associate Professor of Leadership at Copenhagen Business School, Denmark, and Visiting Professor at Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal. His research interests focus on design/arts-based approaches to ideation, problem solving, and organizing. He is developing the Studio@CBS ( for group-centered, problem-based, and experiential management education.
Ariane Berthoin Antal leads the program on 'Artistic interventions in organizations' in the research unit on 'Cultural Sources of Newness' at the Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB), Germany. She also serves as Distinguished Research Professor at Audencia Nantes School of Management (France), and as Honorary Professor of Organizational Development and Intercultural Management at the Technical University Berlin.
Steven Scott Taylor is Associate Professor in the School of Business at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, USA. His research focuses on the aesthetics of organizational action and reflective practice. Recently his academic work has focused on theorizing the use of arts-based process within organizations and conceptualizing management as craft. He is the author of "Leadership Craft, Leadership Art", and is the editor of the journal 'Organizational Aesthetics'. Steven is also a playwright whose work has been performed in many countries.