For the past few months I’ve been working on a pretty big project with friends and collaborators Clint McLean and Rob Carroll (of We Are Thought Fox). Clint is based in Dubai and Rob in The UK so it’s been a series of late-night Skype calls and marathon email chains, but out of it came something pretty great—a top to bottom rebranding of Barjeel Art Foundation in Sharjah, UAE.
Here’s what we said about it on the Barjeel website:
“Rebranding the Barjeel Art Foundation’s visual identity was a bit of a dream come true. We formed We Are Thought Fox with this type of project in mind, but we hadn’t even launched our own website when this opportunity came along.
We approached this exciting challenge by looking at what made Barjeel unique: the quality and size of Barjeel’s art collection, and the fact that it is a very contemporary space and collection, which we felt was being overlooked. It was also incredibly important for us to work in true partnership with Barjeel’s team, Founder Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi and Curator/Director Mandy Merzaban and we consulted and discussed our ideas and designs every step of the way.
The first task of course was the logo—the face of a brand. The previous logo served Barjeel well but we felt like it was a better fit for Sharjah’s heritage area than for a contemporary gallery. All our logo options were bilingual (Arabic and English) and considered equally as part of the brand’s voice. Naturally we ended up with a graphic that is constructed out of both an Arabic and English character for “B”. The solution we arrived at is simple and memorable. The colours and shapes are playful and modern while still remaining authoritative and grounded.
With the logo and colour palette in hand, we began work on designing and building the website. At the start of this process we recognized the importance of “responsive design” which is developed for desktop and mobile devices simultaneously. Using the art collection as the central element to defining both Barjeel and the website, we worked out a maze of relationships on the back-end to encourage site visitors to explore while also making it a great resource for researchers or those looking for specific artworks.
From exhibitions and artist bios to educational programs and press interviews the site is robust yet easy to use. We placed emphasis on curation rather than simplistic sorting, approaching the design of the site much like one might organize an exhibit for the public. For viewers who prefer to see the action in person we developed a mini travel guide to Sharjah. Sharjah is truly a great Emirate for anyone interested in tasting culture so we wanted to make it a little bit easier to explore by suggesting great places to eat, sleep and enjoy.
As Barjeel’s rebranding effort is unveiled you will see the designs popping up in print and online; on banner signage, catalogues, postcards and more. We hope you enjoy engaging with the content as much as we enjoyed building and designing it.”
Below, a few images from the opening for Re:Orient, Barjeel’s most recent exhibit, which we helped brand and promote. (photographs by Clint & Barjeel).