Spoof brand guidelines satirise white male power structures

When is a style guide not a style guide? When it's really a spoof of contemporary power structures. Read on to discover what's behind this new project from Split.

As design geeks, we all love a style guide, as the success of the Kickstarted-publishing company Standards Manual stands witness to. So award-winning Leeds design studio Split has taken that popularity and given it a satirical twist.

Assuming the form of corporate brand guidelines, the White Man™ Identity Standards Manual is published this month, offering a satirical exploration of the relationship between white and male identity and power. Written and designed by Split founder Oli Bentley, it's a follow-up to his award-winning These Northern Types, a typographic exploration of Northern identity.

Combining the worst excesses of corporate BS with beautiful utilitarian graphics, the White Man™ Identity Standards Manual explores how deep the links between power and identity can run.

Interestingly, Oli sees the book as satirising not just the dominance of white men in society but even the idea of style guides themselves.

"We all love a good set of brand guidelines," says Oli Bentley. "But a corporate brand manual is often designed to do two things: first ensure conformity, and then, through this homogeneity, ensure that a brand's identity and heritage are leveraged to gain – or maintain – as much market share as possible."

With that notion in mind, the book "seemed a good starting point to explore the depths of connections between identity and power for a design/media-savvy audience – and to explore my own identity and privilege," he continues. "The format presents whiteness and maleness to be actively considered as identities, not the invisible 'default' against which so many are currently othered.

"I also hope that it picks away at the all-too-convenient little myths used as stand-ins for the nuanced nature of true identity; that we might all live a bit more honestly and equally outside such 2D, black and white constraints."

The book has been described by designer Mat Lazenby of York agency Lazenby Brown as: "An incredibly well-articulated point, made in a clever and tragically funny way. The more it unfolds, the more truth is uncovered."

The book will be launched at a free event in Leeds later this month, but is already available from Split's online shop, along with other products such as the giant letterpress prints by Anthony Burrill, Oli Bentley and Thomas Mayo, and a limited run of Tshirts, tote bags and badges featuring spoof brand TheNorth™.


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