It’s rare that a visual identity is both very clever and super fricking cute at the same time, but Turbo’s branding for Lesser Amman Library ticks both boxes with permanent marker. The Jordanian studio developed a logo that spells out the library’s name in experimental Arabic type but at the same time resembles an abundant bookshelf. Add in some blocky cartoon readers, and we’re queuing round the block to get our library card stamped.
Nestled in the garden of Amman-based nonprofit art space MMAG Foundation, the Lesser Amman Library is a treasure trove of publications collected to inspire cross-disciplinary collaboration in the spirit of the foundation’s ethos and programme. Its brief to Turbo, which is run by designers Mothanna Hussein and Saeed Abu-Jaber, was to create something warm and welcoming, that would draw readers in. “Also, in order to emphasise the ‘lesser’ reference in the name of the space (a nod to the small-scale aspect of the library meant to distinguish itself from the grand and monumental branding approach used by institutions in the city), we experimented with the theme of compactness,” says Mothanna.
The name of the library plays on the name of the Greater Amman Municipality, so Turbo decided to go with an “old-school institutional approach” to the logo itself as, the studio tells us, the municipality used to have a typographic logo that was more unconventional than the one they use now. “Although we started with a more classical calligraphic visual direction, we decided to go ahead with an experimental approach with the type,” says Saeed. “Experimental type is a practice that was more widespread in the past [in Jordan], and is something we miss seeing in the city in general.”
For non-Arabic readers, the library’s name (مكتبة عمان الصغرى – remember to read from right to left) might be tricky to spot, but Turbo’s angular typography creates a pictogram of a book shelf or a multi-storey building, while also being very legible. Where English was needed, Turbo used Opposit from Good Type Foundry as a “quite lovely” contrast to the custom Arabic, and Neue 55 Roman as a secondary support font.
Saeed and Mothanna then created some illustrations of figures reading, drawing inspiration from the style of the lettering. “The reason the characters are quite compressed was semi-dictated by where the graphic will be shown, such as above the library’s entrance,” says Mothanna. The blocky characters have been used to make library stamps, as well as being used across stationery and on posters for events. “We felt the [compressed characters] would work well on bookmarks, which act as the library’s business card. They are also a reference to the library scale, figuratively and literally.”