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Translating a Brand Visually

A colleague recently pointed out that you don’t necessarily need to speak Arabic to identify the Coke logo written in Arabic.  Having studied Arabic myself, this piqued my interest – what is it that allows us to identify a brand even when we can’t read the name of the company on its logo? The answer is our innate recognition of visual patterns and cues. Using the Arabic logos of three famous international brands, let’s discuss some possibilities for how a brand can distinguish itself visually.Tide Logo Arabic

One way to distinguish your brand is through the use of a proprietary symbol. Here on the right you can see that the Arabic logo for Tide uses the same familiar yellow and orange circle surrounding it’s corporate name.  You may have no idea what is written inside the circle (it says Tide), but the familiar symbol still draws your mind instantly to laundry detergent.  Notice that the logo also retains the “sparkle” resting on the word “Tide”.  Not only does this sparkle convey in a visual and cross-cultural way the value the brand promises to deliver (clean clothes) but helps the brand’s logo maintain consistency even when written in a different alphabet.

Another way to separate your brand in the minds of clients and prospects is color treatment.  This means not only creating an attractive and competitively differentiating color palette, but using that color palette in consistent and memorable ways.  Below you can see that the Arabic version of the FedEx logo uses the same familiar blue and orange.  If you’re wondering why the blue is on the right and the orange is on the left, it is because Arabic is read from right to left rather than left to right.  But by dividing the name through the use of color and aligning the word “Express” underneath the word “Ex”, the logo remains consistent. They’ve even maintained the ‘hidden’ arrow in the logo through clever use of typography (though it’s pointing the opposite direction). This allows customers traveling around the globe to feel safe relying on the company to deliver packages on time, no matter what language they are reading.

FedEx Logo Arabic

A brand can also be distinguished by a unique design element.  Unlike a proprietary symbol, a design element may or may not be able to receive a trademark or stand on it’s own, but it can still help distinguish your business and give customers confidence that their brand experience will be consistent.  As many of you probably already know, the Subway logo incorporates directional arrows into it’s typography.

Subway Logo Arabic

If you look to the right, you will see that the Arabic version of the logo uses the same design treatment, beginning and ending the word with directional arrows (don’t be fooled, the letter on the left is the “y” not the “s”).  Using the same design treatment helps generate greater recognition of the Subway brand and let’s hungry customers know that whether you’re in New York City or Abu Dhabi, the Meatball Sub on Italian Herbs and Cheese is still delicious.

Whether you are selling sandwiches or complex business-to-business services, unique and consistent visual representations of your brand can help extend your brand recognition, improve external perceptions of the sophistication of your business, and give customers confidence in your product or services as you engage them in the sales process.

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