• Main

    Artur Beifuss and Francesco Trivini Bellini: Branding Terror (cover detail)

Graphic Design

Fascinating new book analyses the logos of terrorist groups from around the world

Posted by Rob Alderson,

Bored of the latest brand press release explaining why brand x has tweaked their logo ever so slightly to reflect their revitalised sense of self blah blah blah? Well this new book by Artur Beifuss and Francesco Trivini Bellini is just the tonic, analysing as it does the logos of terrorist groups from across the world. These insurgent movements are working at the sharp end of graphic design, needing their logos to recruit supporters, visualise their aims and ambitions and work across quite heterogenous socio-cultural contexts.

Branding Terror looks at 60 organisations from al-Quaeda to the Tamil Tigers and combines Francesco’s creative direction expertise with Artur’s experience as a counterterrorism analyst for the United Nations.

They say: “Branding Terror does not seek to make any political statements; rather, it offers insight into an understudied area of counterintelligence, and provides an original and provocative source of inspiration for graphic designers.”

Intrigued, we spoke to Artur to find out a little more..

  • 456spread5

    Artur Beifuss and Francesco Trivini Bellini: Branding Terror (spread)

  • 456spread1

    Artur Beifuss and Francesco Trivini Bellini: Branding Terror (spread)

  • 456spread2

    Artur Beifuss and Francesco Trivini Bellini: Branding Terror (spread)

  • 456spread3

    Artur Beifuss and Francesco Trivini Bellini: Branding Terror (spread)

  • 456spread4

    Artur Beifuss and Francesco Trivini Bellini: Branding Terror (spread)

Where did the idea for the book first come from?

We were driving on a boat on the canals of Amsterdam, when Francesco told me about the dream he had, about a book covering the brand identity of terrorist groups, a book he said, he could not do without me.

We started working on the concept immediately. The idea was to produce a nicely designed and well researched book that people would remember. A perfect balance between visuals, design and information.

How did you select which groups to cover?

We do not intend to engage in a political discussion with this book but merely to provide an analysis of their visual communication so we came up with a way to make others decide who is a terrorist group and who is not. We used the official lists of “designated foreign terrorist organisations” of five governments. To spread it geographically we used the official lists of Australia, India, Russia, United States and the European Union.

Design-wise what similarities between these disparate groups did you find?

The majority of the groups covered in the book are involved in armed struggle. Therefore, common elements in their logos include weapons like rifles and swords. Animals and birds of prey are also widely used. Then a map to locate the group or to show their area of operation and for Islam motivated groups of course the Holy Qur’an, which is a visual way to legitimise armed struggle religiously.

How difficult was it to separate these groups’ aims and method from they design? Could you ignore the former to focus on the latter?

No, we could not ignore that, it is all tied up. If the group draws their ideology from religion, it is most likely that a Qur’an will be featured in the design. If the group aims to liberate Palestine from perceived oppression with armed struggle, it is very likely that a map of Palestine and crossed rifles will be featured in the design.

And in fact, this is exactly what the book aims to show; analysing the elements and colours in the logos does tell us something about the groups’ aims and methods.

  • 44-hezbollah

    Hezbollah logo featured in Artur Beifuss and Francesco Trivini Bellini: Branding Terror

  • 09-al-qaeda-iraq-logo-2

    Al-Qaeda Iraq featured in Artur Beifuss and Francesco Trivini Bellini: Branding Terror

  • 21-babbar_khalsa_international

    Babbar Khalsa International logo featured in Artur Beifuss and Francesco Trivini Bellini: Branding Terror

  • 39-raf-logo

    RAF logo featured in Artur Beifuss and Francesco Trivini Bellini: Branding Terror

  • 04-6-al-badr-logo

    Al Badr logo featured in Artur Beifuss and Francesco Trivini Bellini: Branding Terror

  • Branding-terror-hr

    Artur Beifuss and Francesco Trivini Bellini: Branding Terror

Ra

Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Graphic Design View Archive

  1. List

    Wilfred van der Weide was once part of Dutch design duo wilfredtimo, whose work we’ve been admirers of since we came across these superheroic graphics in 2012. After several years in each other’s pockets they’ve gone their separate ways, but unlike most breakups, some of the results have been beautiful.

  2. List

    Dutch designer Roosje Klap recently set up an international initiative known as The Design Displacement Group with the intention of approaching modern design in new and unusual ways. Their intention is to “form a group together which creates work as seen from the future. Yes! We time-travel 20 years and look back on today, to understand the discourse of graphic design as it is happening today – with different eyes and speculative future categories.

  3. List

    Belgian designer Corbin Mahieu learned his craft at the prestigious Sint Lucas School of Arts in Ghent, following in the footsteps of a legion of other respected Belgian designers and illustrators. His work is academic in style; specifically focussed on arts projects for the local creative community in Ghent. Although he’s recently completed an internship in London at Zak Group, presumably developing into further spheres of design in the process. Pictured is a beautifully realised catalogue for his alma mater, exploring the facilities and faculty in detail.We’d say he’s definitely one to watch, and hopefully he’s sticking around in London a little longer.

  4. Furnlist

    Berlin-based consultancy D describes itself as a “two-headed quadruped that focuses on graphic design and illustration” that “was born, speaks, thinks, and of course eats Italian.” It’s this heritage and appetite that explains the beautiful identity work the studio has created for Italian furniture design factory Edizione Limitata. We don’t often get excited about catalogues, but this one really is lovely, showing well-shot images of the furniture alongside more playful, painterly illustrations with brushstrokes and doodle-like patterns acting as a lovely contract to the slick imagery of the pieces on sale. It’s great to see the usually rather serious world of furniture given a less stony-faced identity, though the careful use of colour and typography as shown on business cards, stationery and technical sheets still shows Edizione Limitata as very much the high-end Italian operation.

  5. List

    There’s nothing heavy-handed about Seoul-based design studio fnt’s work. It’s like the graphic design equivalent of that little dish of mint-flavoured ice cream you get handed between courses at fancy restaurants to refresh your palette; something about their refined use of thin lines in muted colours on a white background feels newly delicate, when you’ve spent several hours being accosted by great slabs of colour and text that feel like a knock to the head. Maybe it has something to do with the Korean script, introducing a whole new realm of possibilities to the ways they treat typography, or the studio’s willingness to dabble in patterns and geometric shapes in a simple and understated way to jazz up otherwise clean layouts.

  6. List

    Furniture, typefaces, identities and posters, websites, limited edition fashion lines, music packaging and abstract works all exist within the broad practice of Berlin-based designer Till Wiedeck. Under the moniker of HelloMe, he’s been a constant creative force on the contemporary graphic design scene for the past six years, accumulating big-name clients like The New York Times, COS and Warp Records among others. This recent work for German/French art fund Perspektive, is characteristic of Till’s holistic approach to his process, with print collateral, web and all other elements of the identity created by the studio, all united by a bespoke typeface.

  7. List

    It’s all well and good writing about slick, big-client, big-agency graphic design. But once in a while it’s bloody lovely to cast our eyes over a graphic design project that takes itself not-so-seriously. One photographed using Polaroid, and sent to us as if broadcast directly from amidst a 90s Kevin Smith film. The projection questions is the visual identity for Baohaus – a restaurant that takes its name as a smart little play on, er, bauhaus and Bao – the form of Taiwanese food the restaurant specialises in.

  8. List

    Some people may be already winding down for Christmas but not so Rob Gonzalez and Jonathan Quainton, aka Sawdust. They’ve just updated their site with so much new work that we were genuinely spoiled for choice when it came to selecting what to focus on. Great typographic illustrations for_Men’s Health_,_ Wired and The New Republic didn’t make the cut on this occasion; instead we decided to showcase two very different, but equally excellent, print projects.

  9. Listhkagw-1

    It can’t be easy working on a brief set by a client that’s both an art event organised by a non-profit and a big banking firm. How best to balance a slick, serious look with one that shows creative awareness? For The Partners’ branding for the new Bank of China-sponsored Hong Kong Art Gallery Week event, the consultancy cleverly chose to look to a sense of place to inspire its look, which is informed by the area’s hilly topography. The event bring together more than 50 local galleries and museums, who spend ten days opening their spaces up for all, aiming to promote the work of local artists and contemporary Chinese Hong Kong art to the world.

  10. List

    There’s something deliciously tactile about Anne Jordan’s book cover designs. Much of her work unites a very materials-driven approach with clever typography, resulting in work that makes a two-dimensional image feel extraordinarily physical. The designer is based in Rochester, New York, and is also one-half of the duo behind the Walking blog, a rather sweet project in which she and her husband take half an hour a day to make something creative and post it online. However, we wanted to focus on her designs for books; and especially hone in on the way she takes an often oblique title and creates a design that plays off it, frequenly in smart, unexcited ways. Her look for The Woman Who Read Too Much, for instance, plays with cliched images of femininity like hair and curves to render the title less legible; and the look for Kevin McLauhlin’s Poetic Force uses feint lettering and thin-to-breaking-point paper as a backdrop. The choices seem obvious as we write them down but her work is anything but, creating covers that delight and make you think in equal measure.

  11. List-vince-frost-design-your-life-21

    Many a trite fridge magnet, when not busy reminding us how a minute on the lips is a lifetime on the hips, has extolled some wisdom about failure being a good thing, or a reason to try again, or a learning curve or some-such. But that might just be because it’s true. Failure is, indeed, a precursor to learning – something designers are perhaps even more aware of than most. Vince Frost, the former Pentagram designer who founded Frost*Collective, where he holds the post of executive creative director and CEO, is well aware of this, devoting a chapter to failure in the book he launched a few months back, Design Your Life.

  12. List

    When graphic designers discuss working for arts clients, more often than not they tell us about how important it is that an identity or series of exhibition graphics can sit back, being confident enough to let the artwork speak for itself. The real skill lies in doing this while also managing to devise a look that’s instantly recognisable. It’s even better if said look is, in its own way, as beautiful as the artworks it’ll be used to help promote.

  13. Unnamed

    Lyon-based studio Catalogue make the sort of no-nonsense, pared back graphic design that shows that being experimental and forward-thinking needn’t be at the cost of being super slick. Working across projects including identity design, web design and signage, they frequently take on commissions for equally experimental clients – one of which caught our eye in the form of this identity for Saint-Étienne-based musique concrète Festival des Musiques Innovatrices.