Branding agency Templo has designed a “Syrian-led identity” and website for Free Syria’s Disappeared (FSD), a coalition of activists, human rights campaigners and lawyers working for freedom and accountability for detainees.
According to Templo co-founder and creative director Pali Palavathanan, Templo started working with the Centre for Justice & Accountability (CJA) on the project in November 2022, having been chosen for its “expertise in the human rights and advocacy space”.
In addition, members of the Templo team have personal connections to Syria. Palavathanan explains that founder and managing director Anoushka Rodda’s maternal grandmother was born in Aleppo, where designer Soumi Issa’s family are also from.
“Since we set up Templo [Rodda] has always wanted to do something to help the people of Syria”, Palavathanan says. “It was a huge moment for her personally to be involved in such a meaningful and important cause”.
Initial conversations with the CJA asked for a “Syrian-led visual identity”, says Palavathanan. To ensure “all voices in the coalition were heard”, there were a series of co-creation workshops and meetings.
He gives credit to the “phenomenal translators” – as well as the Arabic speakers on its team” – describing the challenges of working through the “nuanced language around branding in Arabic”, and finding the English equivalent to the often “more poetic” Arabic words.
Of the logo at the heart of the identity, Palavathanan says: “We wanted to create a logo that came from the voice of Syrians. For Syrians by Syrians. We did this by fusing the symbol for freedom (a bird) and the Arabic word for ‘Syria’.” In some applications, animation allows the bird to fly.
For the main colour, a bold red was chosen “that connects to Syrian culture”, while avoiding national and political references, Palavathanan explains.
Largely used in combination with black text, contrasting borders at page edges also help “echo the weight of the line within the logo”, says Palavathanan.
Both identity and website are bilingual, using Arabic and English text in order to speak to “survivors, the families of survivors, advocacy groups, activist groups, regular Syrians, as well as lawyers, governments, the United Nations and policymakers”, Palavathanan says.
Looking to not make mistakes “often” made elsewhere where Arabic is treated as an “afterthought”, Palavathanan explains that “Arabic led the way in the logo”, to which the left and right alignment of the typography “locks on nicely”.
Equally, a typeface was chosen that works well with both Arabic and English, he adds.
Given the nature of the cause, “we waited the brand to have spirit, humanness and a more organic, delicate feel,” Palavathanan says, introducing an “intentionally handmade” feel.
This tied in with the limited budget for the project, where there was a need for “quick and effective ways to demonstrate support from around the world”, Palavathanan adds. A “DIY approach to activism”, which he says feels appropriate for a campaigning organisation, meant that content can be created by simply “taking photos, cutting them out on phones easily and placing directly onto backdrops with the logo”.