A new logo for the Free Syrian Army but what is the role of revolutionary identities?
Over the weekend it emerged that a rebel commander from the Free Syrian Army crossed the border from Syria to Turkey in search of a designer to create a new identity for the FSA.
It is reported that Abu Hayder, a northern border commander, sought out Sedat Akpinar, a young Turkish designer, to create a brand that could be applied to cars, trucks, tanks, T-shirts, baseball caps and bandannas.
The project, which was turned around in a day, is a reminder of the role of branding in protest groups, revolutionary groups and warfare.
But as designer, writer and RCA senior tutor Adrian Shaughnessy points out, ‘revolutionary movements have produced some of the most memorable and vigorous symbols.’
‘The CND symbol, the old Solidarity logo, and the Black Power fist, have always stood out for me as works of genius,’ says Shaughnessy.
We should point out, if critiquing a logo for the FSA seems a little crass, that this story is of course, backdropped by the far more important political and human rights issues of a harrowing and complicated war.
The circumstances of the FSA brief reflect this. Hayder, who is reported to have asked for ‘an indefinite symbol,’ brought with him a designer-turned-sniper with a background in design.
With the aid of an Arabic speaking neighbour, a local smuggler it is understood, Akpinar created Arabic characters designed to read ‘Northern Storm Brigade’ which is an SFA division.
The finished design features the green, white and black and three red stars of the Syrian flag, to which was added a gun and an eagle; symbols of war.
Hayder is then reported to have approved the design, ordering 300 to be printed that same day, as vehicle stickers, with the promise that he would return to make further orders.
It is reported that Akpinar was then paid the equivalent of £187 and given a flash drive of FSA footage, which Commander Hayder gave him permission to sell to news channels.
‘If we take Aleppo we want all the fighters to look the same,’ Hayder is reported to have said.
It seems the FSA has a strong sense of identity, understands how it wants to be seen globally now, and maybe how it wants to be represented politically in the future.
As Shaughnessy says, ‘This shows the utter necessity in the media age of having a recognisable symbol or logo that identifies a particular political cause or faction.’
Jonathan Barnbrook, of consultancy Barnbrook, has a more nuanced interpretation - that the marque of an activist movement stands above all else as a right to be heard.
Barnbrook says, ‘Here we are talking about a right to speak, not a narrow message about consumption or a desire to hold on to power. It’s about clear expression of a point of view when it’s in control of others.
‘This understanding of ‘a unified voice’ - lets not call it “branding” - is becoming more and more important in the world outside the mainstream.’
Drawing on his own experience designing the Occupy London logo, Barnbrook says, ‘There were a surprising amount of designers at the [Occupy] meetings who were desperate to put the skills they have learnt to something which has a direct meaning to them.
‘It does seem that designers now understand that their talents can be best used to tell people a truth they directly believe in themselves.’
Focusing on the FSA situation, Barnbrook says, ‘I am happy the guy [Hayder] understands the value of what a logo or symbol can do and I like the immediacy of how it was done but he has gone through the same design process as many people do when they know nothing about design.
‘I am not expecting him to - and hey, I know we are talking about a war situation here - but there are plenty of people sympathetic to FSA’s views out there on the web who would have done it for free and the same day.’