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..
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.