This post discusses our process for working on the brand, identity, and logo for FIND; we'll begin by defining a few terms. A brand works as a system consisting of several elements that make up the representation of a business, product, service, or project. An identity system amplifies perceptions and emotions about that brand through the use of a logo, typography, colors, and parameters for how different design components will be used. The logo is the main, iconic representation of the brand and a primary part of the identity system. A logo itself needs to be a flexible image system that's applicable to implementation through different mediums, including digital, print, and physical spaces. The creation of all of these components requires a clear understanding of the business, product, service, or project to be branded.
FIND creates intersections and dialogues between the work of artists and scholars, the past and the present, the varied personal experiences of Emiratis and UAE residents, and the UAE. FIND’s identity needs to fundamentally support the spirit of and explorations made by the team and its collaborators to articulate the spaces in-between the known stories of the rich history and transnational present of the UAE. FIND needs an identity that takes advantage of its bilingual roots in a rigorous, coherent way (Arabic and English need to be consistently co-present without causing confusion), while allowing for use across digital and physical mediums, personalization, and multi-lingual implementation.
All of the above criteria defined our design brief for FIND’s name and identity, and we found that one word didn’t meet all our needs. In response, we created acronyms that could both telegraph a core value of the initiative while allowing for the complexity of our goals. After exploring multiple words, we decided on FIND (Forming INtersections and Dialogues) for the English and made an unusual choice to create an acronym for the Arabic word (إبحث بناء حوارات بين الثغرات).
Within our choices for the name, we set a precedent for how the two languages will be used throughout the project. The Arabic name and acronym are complimentary translations that allude to the same meaning as the English—a process of exploration that builds intersections and dialogues—without insisting that FIND and إبحث be exact translations. The creation of an acronym is unusual in the Arabic language, especially for a name; this is due to several factors, including the complexity of the Arabic language and the nonexistence of capital letters to hint at an acronym. However, because of the nature of the project and an insistence at parity between the languages, we needed both the Arabic and English to be equally strong separately, and even stronger together.
In order to reinforce this mutual strength, we needed to find complementary fonts. After a rigorous search of fonts for FIND, we landed on Din as an appropriate type family—coincidentally but irrelevant, it also has the same letters in FIND. Din is a neo-grotesque sans-serif typeface which successfully communicates the modern and elegant feel we feel embodies FIND. Although there are 2 beautifully designed Arabic versions of DIN—Linotype Din by Nadine Chahine and Parachute Foundry Din in collaboration with Hasan Abu Afash—they did not work together with the capital letters of the English FIND word mark. Therefore, we chose to draw our own Arabic FIND that was proportional to the English FIND, and we chose PF Din Arabic (Parachute Foundry's version) as the font to be used throughout the identity system.
Between the Arabic and English single-word acronyms, we include a line. This line is an important element to communicate our project concept, and it provides us with a flexible visual element for the identity implementation. The line visually reinforces the conceptual space between two languages, while allowing us to identify the intent or goal to be explored and found. For our letterhead, stickers, and elements of the website, we fill in the line with handwritten words appropriate for the use. For example, the letterhead includes a handwritten image—or use of a handwritten-like font—declaring the topic of the page. Within the images in this post, you'll see examples such as "coming soon" (used as the placeholder page on our website), "mission," and "artists."
In addition, we created a pattern of words as the background for our business cards, back of paper stationery, and notebook surfaces; this pattern includes equivalents to the word "find" in a variety of languages found within the UAE. As discussed above, though Arabic and English are our primary, bilingual roots, the project will span beyond Arabic and English-speaking communities to engage the dynamic, transnational community of the UAE and its connected communities. This pattern reinforces FIND's mission for inclusivity.
Our identity is dynamic and transformative, designed with the ability for lots of targeted change. We support this with a wide palette or potential colors but keep the primary usage to just three - black, white, and red. With as much potential variety as FIND has, it's important to keep a coherent, minimal aesthetic. For the secondary colors, a wide gamut was chosen to be used as accents within our visual system. Since we're just beginning on our FIND design journey, we'll learn more in the future about how these colors might best come into play.
Once we had a comprehensive approach to the FIND brand, we explored the ways in which FIND will intersect with the NYUAD and NYUAD Institute identities. It was important that we clearly identify FIND as a NYUAD supported project for both the NYU and UAE communities. We chose to combine the FIND and NYUAD logos on select items, and we added the phrase "NYU Abu Dhabi supported research project" to those items which do not present the combined logos.
We've planned for many things in the design of FIND's identity, but there likely remains an equal number of things that we haven't yet identified. We begin with a name and visual system that we hope simultaneously communicates a seriousness and a playfulness, UAE-specific roots with a sense of inclusiveness, and an initiative meant to be for serious practitioners and general populations alike.