Open Call — Extended Deadline: September 1st, 2023

July 1, 2023
Extended Deadline: September 1st, 2023

Submission Deadline

October 2023
Jury Selection

November 2023
Announcement of Winning Projects

The Phaistos Disc, discovered in 1908 and thought to date to around 1700 BC, is a circular piece of fired clay stamped with forty-five distinct symbols. For some scientists, this artifact is a hoax. For other researchers, its code is a mystery that has been deciphered only recently. It is inspiring the participants of the Phaistos Project to translate current concerns — political, economic, ecological, cultural, and social challenges — into collections of forty-five unique visuals. They are using design methodologies as a mode of inquiry to develop visual narratives that capture the contemporary challenges of humanity for future generations.


Entries have to be submitted through
Participation is free. Each submission has to include two things:

1. Annotated Portfolio
An annotated portfolio depicts visual work with brief textual annotations. It has been proposed by Gaver and Bowers (2012) as a “way to communicate design research”. Submissions have to follow this PDF Annotated Portfolio template. You can either rebuild it in the software of your choice (using any font you’d like and follow the positioning of elements just roughly) or download the InDesign template here — also using a font of your choice but we recommend to keep it simple!

2. One zipped folder with 45 files
Color: black & white
Dimensions: 1800×1800 pixel
Naming Conventions: myproject001.png — myproject045.png


Read the Disc of Phaistos—its materiality and its 45 symbols—through the lens of your everyday: Is the clay of the past the code of today? Are 241 tokens an ancient tweet? Inspired by this time capsule, develop a set of 45 elements that captures visual traces of the anthropocene; while each symbol of the set is a discrete element, their entirety should communicate a sense of unity.

Read the Disc of Phaistos — its materiality and its forty- five visuals — through the lens of your everyday: Is the clay of the past the code of today? Are the 241 tokens an ancient tweet? Explore the disc as a re- presentation of the fundamental and revolutionary shifts in the history of humankind: the invention of writing, the creation of the printing press, and development of the disc as a medium. Inspired by this time capsule, develop a set of forty- five visual elements that capture traces or critical challenges of the Anthropocene as you experience them. While each symbol of the collection is a discrete element, their entirety should communicate a sense of unity.


For this open call, we invite two ways of observing and documenting the Anthropocene as it unfolds on a global scale and in our everyday lives


Create a set of forty-five visuals (pixel-based images) to document the global human impact on natural systems as it reveals itself through visual traces. The Earth is your object of investigation — look at it through your camera, satellite imagery, ancient and modern archives, the microscope, or any apparatus you invent or identify. Find evidence. Look at a drop of your tap water or the levels of the oceans. Capture invisible traces of anthropogenic substances in the air. Use satellite images to reveal patterns on Earth or (sun)light to record environmental processes of your everyday.

KEYWORDS: Visual Journalism. Visual Archeology. Material. Object. Optical Lens. Microscope. Satellite Imagery. Cyanotype. Anthotypes. Pixel.


Create a set of forty-five visuals (vector graphics) to represent critical aspects of our current epoch. Observe global and local communities, speculate about non-human ecologies, and deconstruct processes of natural systems to develop new visual languages using symbols, pictograms, and simple graphics. Explore global archives to identify data you are specifically concerned about and translate it into a visual narrative. Teach a machine or an algorithm to draw forty-five visual elements based on environmental data. Speculate about future conversations: objects talking to subjects, humans talking to machines, the future talking to the past. Develop visual elements to map the migration of humans, non-humans, and sediments.

KEYWORDS: Reading & Writing Systems. Speculative Languages. Symbols & Pictograms.Codes. New Alphabets. Mapping & Graphics.


Submissions will be evaluated by an international jury, who will select the projects to be featured on our website and in our 10th-anniversary publication. More information about the jury will be published soon. More importantly, participants will join an active global community that is rooted in a passion for visual language and culture and driven by ideas on how art and design practices can stimulate a transdisciplinary discourse to shape the future of our planet.

In this sense, engaging in the open call and meeting community peers will invite participants to consider their own positioning on central issues and current events in the Anthropocene. Looking at the world today — as an artist, designer, or scientist — what are your methodologies for observing and documenting change in a distinct, unique, or even radical way?

In this time of global transformations, our art and design practices are shifting. While we are transferring skills to automated intelligent agents, we are defining our voice in the socio-political discourse that responds to human actions of the past and present. To successfully navigate these new interconnected systems and position ourselves as critical practitioners, we have to explore new ways of understanding our practice as a mode of inquiry. In that sense, the reflection of our methodologies, our abilities to research, and an open discussion of how we generate, document, and circulate new knowledge are crucial at this very moment.

We believe that studying a time capsule from the past has the power to spark new ways of seeing and thinking. Of course, materials and devices have evolved. Today, clay is code, interfaces are fluid (and not discs), and access to knowledge is ubiquitous through mobile devices. However, whose knowledge is it? Who really has access? What questions do emerging artists and designers have for humankind today, and which narratives are worth preserving for future generations?

For its 10th anniversary (in 2024), the Phaistos Project calls for research-driven and self-directed observations, experiments, and speculations that provide new perspectives on the unfolding anthropogenic destruction of our planet and portray global phenomena and the overlooked transformations in our everyday lives. Selected entries will be included in the 10th anniversary publication or published on the project’s website.


Randa Abdel Baki
Randa is Associate Professor of Communication Design
Lebanese American University Beirut.

Olivier Arcioli
Olivier is founder of ateliergruen, Program Director and Associate Professor of Graphic and Informationsdesign at New Design University in Austria.

Annelie Franke
Annelie is Associate Professor of MediaDesign at International University Campus Mainz and founder of AF Photography.



Pascal Glissmann
Pascal is Associate Professor of Communication Design at Parsons School of Design New York, co-director of the Observational Practices Lab Parsons, and founder of the design studio subcologne.

Andreas Henrich
Andreas is Professor Emeritus of the Academy of Media Arts Cologne and founder of henrich design studio.

Mariko Takagi
Mariko is Associate Professor at Doshisha Women’s College of Liberal Arts, Department of Information and Media, Kyoto, Japan and founder of
mikan design studio<


Visual Citations

Machine Oil and Soap/Daniel Olah/unsplash (background)
The Phaistos Disk/ Ellywa/Public domain/ Wikimedia Commons
Voyager Golden Record/NASA/Xession/Public domain/Wikimedia Commons
Genomics/Sean Burgess/ Boone/2017/in vitro #44
Go Viral/Luca Wunderlin/Basel/2019/ Mumps #9
Rounded Biographies/Karen Trachsel/Basel/2019/Mandela #38
Baile Folklórico/E. Andrade-Guerrero/Houston/2018/West: JALISCO #13
Deltas in Danger/Lena Meier/Basel/2018/Murray #22
Frozen Lives/Chisaki Yuki/Osaka/ 2020/Strike the Core #8
→ View of the Earth as seen by the Apollo 17 crew traveling toward the moon/NASA/unsplash
Green Fireworks/Emilie Dwire/unsplash
Microscopic image of insect wings/Ash Hayes/unsplash
→ Closeup view of an eye/v2osk/unsplash
Try To Trace The Tracks/ Johanna Buehler/Basel/2018/ Grosspeterstrasse #15
Urbic/Tracy Bassil/Byblos/ 2017/ring road #1
Labyrinth/Haksar & Dolder/Basel/2018/00:30:13 #3
Go Viral/Luca Wunderlin/Basel/2019/ Lassa #7
The PET Proof of Identity/Imhof & Krenmayr/Basel/2018/water 330 ml 22 g #1
AI Generated Language/Isaac Sanchez/Houston/2018/#41
→ Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV)/CDC/unsplash
Chews A Character/Patricia Grabowicz/Basel/2018/Pessimist #8