The Islamic economy is predicted to grow to $6.7 trillion by 2020 but most Halal brands are playing it safe when it comes to designing their identity. Here’s how I realized I was going to make the same mistake and tried to fight clichés by taking risks and thinking outside the box.
Radio Islam is America’s first daily Muslim radio show.
- It aims to help Muslims tell their own story, facilitating them to integrate in and contribute to western society.
- While their show covers a variety of topics ranging from news and current affairs to the environment and health, promoting peace, love and unity is at the heart of their programming.
The existing audience for the program was:
- Fluent in English
- People interested in current affairs and social issues
- People listening to the radio show on their daily commute
We live in an attention economy where everyone is creating and there are options, options and yet more options. Amidst all those choices, it takes a lot to stand out. Usually, the look and feel of a product, service or piece of content is the first thing that draws us to it. We click on videos that have well-made thumbnails; we pause scrolling when we see an eye-catching post; even ads have had to become disruptive as opposed to interruptive just so we can give the product, service or content some mindshare. While Radio Islam was doing okay on its own and had its loyal base of listeners, it’s identity was not doing justice to its programming and I felt that if it was made more inviting, we could get a lot more people to try it out, possibly making them listeners or even patrons. So I proposed a redesign.
For the brand’s logo, I made the mistake of starting out by trying to look at the words Radio and Islam individually, making doodles of different ways each could be represented and then integrating the two to come up with a symbol that was part radio, part Islam. I wanted it to look clever.
But in doing what I was, I was ignoring the most important thing; that the intention behind the redesign was to make the brand more approachable and inviting in line with the intentions of the founders. Neither a radio’s tuner, nor a crescent on a minaret was going to do that. Radio Islam helped bring people closer and gave them a sense of community but in looking at the brand in parts, I lost sight of the greater whole.
During the process, I ended up making some concepts that weren’t half bad.
I kind of liked the one with the heart replacing the ‘o’ in radio, but there were a few problems with both these concepts:
- They did not create a strong, iconic identity for the brand.
- Stripped of the words ‘Radio’ and ‘Islam’, they were reduced to just a tuning dial or a heart, which could be a logo for pretty much anything.
- A logo is as good as its adaptability across different mediums. The concepts above relied too heavily on the company’s name being fully written out and would not scale well to smaller sizes or across modern applications such as bookmark/browser-tab icons and app icons.
I started afresh. This time, knowing that I didn’t want it to be something typical that almost every other Muslim brand was using; things like crescents, domes, geometric symbols, books, mosques etc. were clichés I wanted to avoid at all costs. I wanted Radio Islam’s new identity to be metaphorical; something that emphasized the intent and the effect over the literal meanings of those two words put together.
This new approach reframed the problem for me and allowed me to bring together two concepts as I originally wanted to, but they weren’t radio and Islam; they were love and the medium used to spread that love. So for the medium, I ended up using waves and to depict love, I made a heart using the waves themselves.
However, being a former engineer, I couldn’t help but wonder how the analog waveform would look like if it was made a bit more ‘digital’ using a series of circular and straight paths.
This is what the digital version ended up looking like
I had two logos on my hands and an important decision to make; having to choose can sometimes be more difficult than doing the work itself because of the invisible (or in the case of design, visible) weight of your decision rests on your shoulders.
I decided to go with the analog version instead because of the feelings it evokes. It reminds me of a simpler, richer time and the waveform itself has a much more ‘fun’ and hearty vibe to it. The variable distance between strokes creates just the right amount of negative space for printing and small scale applications.
To sum up, design is about creating a meaningful difference and evoking joy, even if it sometimes means going backwards in your exploration or undoing hours of brainstorming and execution.
Just remember to not waste any of the process and document it all because what is completely unsuitable for one project at one time, may end up being (or inspiring) exactly what you need down the road. The journey isn’t linear, but you’ll get there if you know when to stop. Don’t worry about your design getting stagnant because you cannot accurately predict the future living in the present. If you’ve laid down a good foundation, expect that someone talented will come along at some point in time, take the reins and steer the design to where it needs to get until its next journey.
By Shahraiz Tabassam