The UAE reveals new logo but will it work?

The national branding identity — the country’s first – aims to drive development in various sectors, from tourism to business across the regions.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has unveiled a new logo and slogan, as part of a wider brand identity for the country.

As well as updating the country’s image, it is hoped that the brand identity will help unify the UAE’s seven sovereign constitutional monarchies, according to the newly-established website for the country’s “nation brand”.

The new logo

Unusually, the logo has a time frame of fifty years. During this period, the country hopes to become a “global trade centre”, according to the website.

A statement reads: “As part of the wider vision, the UAE is keen to foresee economic, cultural and economic changes driven by future sectors including advanced sciences, technologies and artificial intelligence.”


Design process

The logo had an unusual journey to development. Seven creatives from seven sectors — including graphic design, fine art and research — were chosen from each of the seven Arab states to develop the brand.

The Palm, one of the potential logos

This committee of 49 was then divided into teams and given a timeframe to come up with three designs, according to the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs and The Future, the government department that oversaw the design process.

The three designs that emerged from that process — Emirates in Calligraphy, The Palm and 7 Lines (the winning logo) — were put to a public vote across various social media channels. The official website for the brand said that over 10m votes were cast in the competition.

Emirates in Calligraphy, the third potential logo

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the country’s vice president, said: “The UAE nation brand represents our map, our identity and our rising aspirations. It also represents seven emirates, seven founders and seven horses with which we will compete in the global race for development.”


Logo design

The new logo comprises seven curved lines, representing each of the UAE’s sovereign constitutional monarchies. These seven emirates consist of Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm AI Quwain.

Applications of the new logo

The lines are formed in the shape of the UAE map, and represent the country’s “strong spirit” and “lofty dreams” according to the brand website.

The logo features three colours — red, green and black – taken from the UAE flag. A new slogan has also been chosen: Make it Happen.


Rebranding

In conjunction with the new identity, a government office — the Nation Brand Office — has been created to oversee issues related to the brand identity. The office says it will “serve as the reference for the use of the logo and issue user guides for all sectors and institutions”.

The identity, and establishment of a brand office, could be viewed as a sign that the country is more seriously considering its image during a transition period in its history.

Founded in 1971, the UAE is an increasingly popular tourist destination; according to a government website, tourism contributed £14.3bn to the country’s economy. Dubai and Abu Dhabi in particular are hotspots.

However, the international NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports that the country still regularly commits human rights abuse among migrant workers, women and the LGBT community.

HRW also reports that the UAE is a leading member of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and has been involved in around 90 unlawful coalition attacks and “likely war crimes” since 2015.



“Only time will tell if the forward-thinking ambition is genuine”: what do designers think of the new identity?

Ryan Tym, director of Lantern:

There’s no doubt that visually, the new logo is a progressive shift from the eagle motif which it replaces. For a nation endeavouring to position itself as a global centre for trade, innovation and opportunity, the latter was never going to stand the test of time — feeling archaic and regimental in design. The seven lines also provide an opportunity to clarify confusion around country’s makeup — a unified nation of seven emirates, rather than the common misconception of seven separate nations.

But a logo doesn’t make a brand, and there’s little evidence on the country’s slick microsite to suggest any broader visual or verbal rollout. Without this strategic depth, the result feels more like a stamp than a system.

The real test for any place or nation brand is whether or not the destination lives up to the promise it’s making. The new brand site speaks of five fundamental values for the nation: “Tolerance, coexistence, fraternity, openness and acceptance of differences” and of “a land where the word “impossible” does not exist”. The new strapline reinforces this, but these words feel shallow. Although “progressive” policies are beginning to emerge from the nation, these values mask a reputation and record on human rights that feels at odds with everything this identity is trying to signal. Only time will tell if the forward-thinking ambition is genuine.

Daniela Meloni, design director at FutureBrand:

It’s a great idea to communicate a sense of unity and cohesion across the seven emirates but unfortunately, the brand identity lacks humanity and warmth. It’s too focused on an emotionless idea of the future, at the expense of acknowledging the country’s rich heritage. The typography is quite impersonal and corporate whilst the composition very hard to use. A missed opportunity.

Choosing a form representative of the geography of the region is risky as the seven emirates don’t have an easily recognisable shape in the same way as countries such as the UK or Italy. The association with the eagle has been lost which is a shame and the lines are too sharp and engineered to resemble the fluidity of the sand dunes, the sea waves and the beautiful Arabic calligraphy.

Branding should always be done with longevity in mind. One of the other entries featuring beautiful, strong calligraphy would have delivered better in terms of life span, being very simple and sophisticated, modern without alienating the past.

Matthew Jones, creative director of Accept & Proceed:

This is what happens when you get a load people together and get them to design something by committee. The story goes that they brought together 49 Emirati artists, poets and designers who collectively then created logos in a one day workshop. And then to compound things they got the public to vote on their favourite mark!?

The idea that anyone can create, or judge design has to stop. This inclusivity, this trend of letting anyone ‘have a go’. A similar thing happened when New Zealand attempted to redesign their flag, instead of commissioning one of their great design studios, they opened it up to the public — because everyone’s a designer now, right? Has nobody learnt from the fable of the Homer Simpson car?

I would be very surprised if they are still using this in 2030, let alone 2070.

Chris Tozer, associate creative director at Mr B & Friends:

The new UAE logo is simple, clean and abstractly represents what it needs to. But my problem with it is just that, it’s a logo, not a coat of arms or an emblem. Of course it’s tempting to make things contemporary and progressive but in an age of oversimplication and homogenisation, designers also need to bear in mind when it’s appropriate to use a bit of detail and craft to create a sense of stature, importance and significance, particularly when it needs to represent a country and last for the next 50 years.

I think retaining a nod to a crest, coat of arms or some form of cultural or historical symbol would have been an important part of the brief. As it stands it could be mistaken for a bank, an airline or miscellaneous corporate company. The same can be said for the generic tagline unfortunately.

What do you think of the new logo and identity?

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Comments
  • Alex January 13, 2020 at 4:43 pm

    Corporate looking and the lock ups are very awkward to say the least. I would be interested to see how this actually rolls out as there is no identity at the moment, just a bland logo.

  • Simon Ward January 14, 2020 at 8:33 am

    Matthew you’re spot-on. Completely agree with “The idea that anyone can create, or judge design has to stop”. Nailed it sir.

  • Louai Alasfahani January 14, 2020 at 8:53 am

    Although I agree that this is NOT a brand but rather a logo, I still think that to judge the output (logo design) before knowing the input (logo brief) is not fair. Personally in light of a missing brief and judging by pure esthetics and cultural nuances and relevance to the UAE seas and desserts, I would have chosen the typographical solution out of the three shortlisted logos. it screams like a soaring falcon united ARAB emirates and the beauty of the Arabic calligraphy in mimicking the sand dunes and waves is spot on.

  • MH January 14, 2020 at 11:42 am

    It seems as though ‘the process’ has defined the outcome – corporate, generic, and lacklustre.

    As for the comments about ‘cohesion and unity’ this does the exact opposite. In a region where borders and relations are fragile, this solution is formed from segregating the nations into seven separate components which is reinforced by the introduction of colour and its relationship to the typography.

  • Steve January 14, 2020 at 12:16 pm

    If the public like it, it is a success. Designers need to stop thinking everything needs some kind of deep emotional meaning and think more like the average person- is it easy to understand? Do they ‘get it’? Are the colours easy on the eye? Is it recognisable? Doesn’t need anything more than that.

  • Steven January 14, 2020 at 2:40 pm

    This is symptomatic of globalisation, where western design clichés have been used to signify a broader, future focused outlook. In this case, it’s a digital pattern where any recognisable Arabic iconography, such as eagles, geometric patterns and calligraphy have been set aside to avoid any traditional or historic connotations. Regional branding like this will inevitably result in vanilla and soulless templates from country to country.

  • Mark Blackmore January 15, 2020 at 6:26 am

    It feels safe. It feels like lowest common denominator design, which it is, by dint of the development process. It fails to embody the ambition and magic of the Emirates and it certainly doesn’t feel like the identity of a country. It lacks presence and gravitas…it doesn’t say ‘We’re the Emirates, we’re special, sit up and listen.’

  • Goffredo Puccetti January 17, 2020 at 10:05 am

    As a graphic designer working in the UAE I raised the very same objections as soon as I heard about this initiative. Nation branding is not logo design and it does not happen in 5 weeks. When a client submit a brief with impossible deadlines, with a timeline that does not allow for research, due diligence, brainstorming and testing, it should be the job of the DESIGNER to say no and advice for proper process. The client has all the rights to know nothing about design process. Hell, this is why they call us! Because we advise! The designer should know better. It should have been their duty to tell the clients: You want nation branding? Ok, Let’s start researching, let’s see how the falcon (btw not an eagle) aged, let’s study trends and styles in the region, in the world, let’s collate material, let’s sketch and sketch, let’s talk to the public, educators, intellectuals, managers, tourists, let’s survey, analyze, compare. In the meanwhile let’s assemble a strong pool of experts (sorry, no popular vote!) Let’s do this for few months and then well convene.

    This is not what happened.
    The whole thing started in late November. It was done in such a rush that you can see, in example, that the calligraphy of the winning one kept on changing even after it has been declared the chosen one. Anyway, I am optimistic because here things move pretty quickly and this most definitely will not last 50 years! 🙂

  • Goffredo Puccetti January 17, 2020 at 10:23 am

    One note on the comment by Daniela Meloni:
    “Branding should always be done with longevity in mind. One of the other entries featuring beautiful, strong calligraphy would have delivered better in terms of life span, being very simple and sophisticated, modern without alienating the past.”

    I do agree with all the points (especially on longevity being paramount) but it must be stated that the proposed calligraphic logo, far from being ‘beautiful’, was quite problematic too, if not just flat wrong, designed with an apparent disregard of the complexity and nuances of the Arabic Script: the Lam+alef, that hamza, rah, connections… ALL is seriously questionable in that calligraphy.

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