19 Apr Case Study: How To Design The Perfect Bilingual Logo?
How To Design The Perfect Bilingual Logo & Identity
Whether you are designing your logo on your own or having a creative agency like us design it for you, it is one of the most difficult decision to make in regards to your brand. If your business requires a bilingual logo such as English and Arabic, then another level of complexity is added. In this blog, I will be explaining how to design a bilingual logo and identity through a case study.
Design process can be wild and creative. However, when we guaranteed results on every project, the process needs to be systemised. I’ll be showing you how to execute a logo design from beginning to the end. This is not a polished success story, and you will be seeing what failed and what worked.
The Design Brief
For this project, the task was to design an identity for an international book publisher, which publishes books in Arabic and English. The name of the company, Dar Kufa, literally translates into “The House of Kufa”, Kufa being a city of a significant cultural importance in the Middle East.
Due to the nature of the company, the aim of the project was to make sure that the identity appeals to both Western and Middle Eastern markets, expressing the same brand throughout.
The challenge faced was to create an equal identity between two completely different alphabets. Apart from having a similar amount of letters, the English alphabet consisting of 26 and the Arabic of 30 letters, the two alphabets differ in all ways possible.
Primary– Arabic Alphabet
To create the perfect identity, one must understand the technicalities of the Arabic alphabet and language. Here were some facts that were taken into consideration before the start of this project:
-Arabic is read from RIGHT TO LEFT.
– The letters H, kh, S, D, T, TH, ‘, gh, and Q do not occur in English.
-The r is rolled like in Russian and Spanish.
-Arabic letters generally exist in groups of similar looking letters, with dots above and below differentiating them.
-There are 30 letters in Arabic with no upper or lower cases.
Secondary– Current Trends
Currently, designers are able to create beautiful Arabic typographic identities for Arabic companies, which mostly contain some form of Arabic calligraphy within. These logos are successful and attractive for the Arabian market and do not raise any problems for companies who are local or have no ambitions to expand internationally or appeal to tourists.
However, the problem arises when designers push hard to make the Arabic alphabet match the English alphabet visually. This occurs in many major international companies, who wish to appeal to the Arabian market. With doing so, the Arabic text tends to lose its real feel and essence and becomes much less attractive to the target market.
Secondary– Current Arabic Logos
Below are some examples of international companies with well executed identities. Most of them include a small descriptive text in English under the art work, which usually state the name or the slogan of the company. This way, company names become understandable. However, an identity is more than understanding the language alone – the visual aspect also has to be balanced. The design has to be imprinted in the memory of the receiver, transferring some of the brand with it.
Arabic Gone Western
It’s not unusual to see Arabic designers trying to copy and imitate design trends from the West. However, it is important to note that Arabic typography has far less flexibility than the Latin type, as it is much more sensitive to amendments. A letter could change from a T to a B by simply misplacing a dot. Also, the Arabic type is not geometric, which means that it is a dot based system.
Go With The Flow
Calligraphy is a big part of the Arabic general identity, hence it was most natural to start experimenting with that. The flexibility of the English alphabet allows designers like me to push and try to make it flow like Arabic calligraphy.
01. First sketches and attempts to match English.
Arabic calligraphy, is the artistic practice of handwriting and calligraphy, based upon the alphabet in the lands sharing a common Islamic cultural heritage. It includes Arabic , Ottoman, and Persian calligraphy.
02. More sketches
Although Arabic script has many rules, some calligraphers have found a way of working around that by making the beginning of the letters stay true to the look-book rules, whilst freely amending and experiment with the the look of the endings of the letters.
During this project, many styles were tested and trialed. The main inspiration came from the calligrapher Hassan Massoudy who has created a style with a rougher feel to it, making it less “perfect”. The red and blue Arabic artworks shown below are his, whereas the English artworks are my experimentations. Although it seemed to work better, there were still too many imperfections, which did not allow me to create an equally balanced design.
Stop. Rethink. Re-Research.
Rather than making the Latin alphabet look similar to the Arabic, a better long-term solution was needed. Unlike Arabic, the Latin alphabet is geometrical, but could there be a way of making Arabic geometrical? To answer that, deeper research about the Arabic script and the origin of the company was necessary.
I decided to back to the primary research and collect more infomation on Kufa as a city. This could channel the development in a better direction. As mentioned earlier, Dar Kufa, the “House of Kufa” or “Kufa House”, originates from the word Kufa, a city located in Iraq with a significant cultural value to the Middle-East.
In 656 A.D. the historical city became a capital governed by Alī ibn Abī Tālib, the cousin and the son-in-law of Prophet Mohammed. It contains the Great Mosque of Kufa, one of the earliest mosques in Islam built in the 7th century, with many famous scholars originating from there.
01 Kufic Script
Kufic is the oldest calligraphic form of the various Arabic scripts and consists of a modified form of the old Nabataean script. Kufic script was mainly developed around the end of the 7th century in Kufa, Iraq, from which it takes its name. Until around the 11th century it was the main script used to copy Qur’ans. However, these days, the usage of the script has lessened dramatically.
Due to the square tiles used in architecture, the Kufic script naturally took a geometric form. The geometric aspect of the Kufa calligraphy was intriguing and made it fitting to this project.
Dar Kufa. Kufa. Kufic.
Finally, there was something that I had not seen or felt before: an equal weight to both scripts. I started out by making simple sketches on graph paper:
The Design Process
Thinking that Kufic would be just simple geometry was wrong. According to the rules of the script, there has to be equal spacing between letters and dots. Applying this rule on the English version might become a problem for legibility later on. Arabic calligraphy in general has a lot of repetition either for emphasis or aesthetics.
The rules of the Kufic script turned out to be very challenging. The spacing between the L and the K, the U and the K, and the F and the A were not equal. Instead of trying to break the rules, it was best to actually stick to them.
Arabic turned out to be far more easier to play around with, as the letters are easier to bend.
As architecture played a huge role in the Kufic script, it was important for me to be able to bring the three-dimensional world to life.
In order to keep and restore my history and identity, I chose the colour turquoise, a colour that also represents Iraq.
Repetitive Kufic script is read in the same way from all angles. This allowed me to create a dynamic logo, which rotates but still keeps its form, meaning, and legibility. The design was inspired by the Arabic dot based system.
Clearly legibility was still a problem. It was better to simplify the logo and see if that would help.
The logo became more legible after adding some illustrative elements on it, however the R still needed some more attention. The spacing in this design turned out to be more successful than the ones previously.
The beauty of Kufic is in the intricate design, therefore, over-simplifying the design would make it lose its essence. The best thing to do was to deconstruct the letter layout and begin refining the design.
The design no had a good basis. It was legible because of the composition, however, it still contained some elements that needed to be fixed, such the R and the D.
The use of colour further enhanced the legibility, as dark colours are usually read first and lighter colours last.
By simply using Kufic on the Arabic felt like cheating, as it is the oldest Arabic script. By re-thinking and re-designing, I was able to have more flexibility to differentiate the D from the O and the R from the A.
Introducing a diagonal grid to my horizontal and vertical grid gave me endless new options, but I still needed a guide to work with. Whereas introducing a straight grid and a diagonal grid gave the possibility to create more options with the identity.
The diagonal grid gave great flexibility when adding an extra dimension to the art work.
Through adjusting the right tones of colour and adding some illustrative elements, the final identity started to come to life.
The logo became flexible and could be applied in many ways without losing its identity.
Creating a logo with strong identity elements could be altered easily whilst not losing the core of the design, depending on what kind of a book was published.
The final result was a balanced, strong identity, which was easy to amend. Most importantly, the identity appealed to both Western and Middle Eastern audiences.
Creating a logo is always challenging, and I hope that the case study presented in this article was as insightful to you as it was to me.