The Chaos Communication Congress is an annual meeting of the international hacker scene, organized by the Chaos Computer Club. The congress features a variety of lectures and workshops on technical and political issues. In 2012, more than 6.500 visitors were attending the congress. This year, it addressed the question of individual responsibility that arises through participation in the development and implementation of new technologies and their possible consequences for society.
The slogan we came up with was inspired by a song of american singer-songwriter Tom Lehrer. He satirized the alleged amorality of a well-known rocket scientist in the verse:
“‘Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That’s not my department’, says Wernher von Braun”.
‘Not my department’ is a common phrase used as a casual attempt to escape responsibility by shifting the focus to the existence of a greater organization and referencing another section of it. It’s easy to say for everyone. The visual identity of 29C3 is a provocative analogy on that. It is introducing borders to fake independent parts where there is actually a single whole. Randomly placed punctuation marks divide phrases and words into sections, making it hard to get the sense of a message. While the glyphs suggest references to different programming languages, the scrambling of text reminds on techniques used in data encryption – both essential to hacker culture.
The visual identity is meant to be for the audience. We created a dynamic identity based on a characteristic font, some colors and a small set of rules for scrambling text. The design invites people to decode, adopt, modify and play. There were hacker groups who brought self-made banners to mark their workspace at the congress. We saw hacks on the congress wiki and on official posters, changing their original messages. Based on a simple text-based approach, the visual identity even worked in digital communication: there were dozens of scrambled messages on Twitter and even a scrambled version of the Spiegel Online logo on their website.
An essential constrained for the design was the low budget and the fact that a lot of volunteers were involved in the design and the production of the materials. Therefore, it had to be as simple and open as possible. We wouldn’t have been able to realize such a project setup without using an open source font. Even on site, volunteers were designing and producing signage made with ink-jet printers the night before and even during the congress.
Project: 29th Chaos Communication Congress (29C3) – Not my department
Client: Chaos Computer Club, Berlin
Team: Anke Riemer (congress theme & project management), Christian Ivanis (visual concept & art direction), David Grießhammer (web design & development), Erdgeist (client side), Erik Wedeward (print), Ulf Seißenschmidt (motion graphics), 29C3 volunteers
© 2021 Christian Ivanis