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”.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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?