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225. Arabic Versions of Global Brand Identities.

So I've been staying in Dubai for the last week and am very excited about sharing photos that I've taken – comparing and contrasting the arabic and english versions of a few global brands. Some are done very well while others are not executed with quite the same craft. Arabic (what little I know about it) is a phonetic language that reads right to left, so some words or company names are inherently more difficult than others to match up with their english conterparts. That being said, a few of them are just outstanding, for instance the Dean & Deluca logo which utilizes a copperplate arabic script, and the Bose which extends the bars(?) of the letter forms to mirror the original. I hope people enjoy viewing these as much as I have taking them. Soon, I will post the arabic versions of packaging-related identities that I've captured. (Most were taken inside the Dubai Mall and the Mall of the Emirates - also in Dubai.)

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Reader Comments (27)

It's so interesting to see that in many instances the integrity of the font design is kept!
January 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJenn
These are great! I love seeing how typefaces are translated, and how easy it is to recognise Gill Sans, even written in Arabic scripts like that.

I give props to Subway, for somehow managing to work in the arrows into the script. That must have taken a bit of work. I wonder what the FedEx logo looks like out there, and whether or not it carries the hidden E-X arrow. (it does in Hebrew, and points to the left, as you might expect)
January 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPrescott Perez-Fox
Fantastic photos! Well done on snapping all of them up. (Papa John's Pizza and Subway are both doozies — makes me curious about some of the retail packaging you saw).

I've had the pleasure recently of being involved in some jobs coming out of Dubai, but I have yet to go there myself. It appears to be everything it is made out to be and then some.
January 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGavan M.
Very cool to see that!
January 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSummer
That is really nice. Here's how the Fedex logo looks like in Arabic . Yep, they chipped a letter in order to managed to keep the hidden arrow,
January 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFaris
Bose is lookin fab...maybe they should just go with that. LOL, Dean and Deluca for "best available ampersand" win.---who knew?
January 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStephen
i feel like the ampersand in D&G's arabic version should have been flipped horizontally, no? but yes, it is fascinating looking at how the integrity of each font has been translated across languages.
January 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterfathima
I'm just wondering about how the translation works... I mean, is "TGI Friday's" actually translated to "Thanks to Allah it's the last day of the work week"? Same thing with "Papa John's Pizza" - "Father Mahmoud's Pizza", or a literal translation?
January 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBryant
Come on! Some have obviously been designed with care, but half of these are standard everyday arabic typography without any attempt at capturing or recreating the original design.
January 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAAA
That Fedex sign is epic! I think it to be so funny how they have both their original forms and arabic forms, as if Gucci would be unrecognizable to the cognizant traveler or native of Dubai...

It's interesting that it's in that way because when I was in Japan a few years back Burberry was Burberry not バーバリー. Anyways, awesome post!
January 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjono
@Bryant, they're all translated from English into the phonetic equivalent in Arabic. I find that not all clients necessarily care about preserving the integrity of form from the original, especially as typography in Arabic is still not as diverse as it is in Latin, and often creating something similar doesn't necessarily mean that it will be legible as well. For brilliant logos, check out the book 'Arabesque' by the designers at eps51: -- and The Khatt Foundation is a good resource for Arabic typography:
January 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Badr
I lived in Abu Dhabi for 3 years and have seen my share of these english/arabic logo mash-ups in the billions of malls in the Emirates.

Bryant's question is an interesting one. I asked my students about it and they said that most (probably 95%) of them are transliterations of the English. Meaning that for Papa John's they would choose the Arabic characters that made sounds that most closely relate to the English sounds. Wow, that was a terrible sentence, let me try again. A person reading a sign in either English or Arabic would say the name of the shop as it is pronounced in English. And for that reason, most of my students hated the Arabic signs.

We see the signs as visual forms, shapes with no meaning. Because they hold no meaning for English speakers we see the pure form, and how close the Arabic forms mimic Latin forms. Those who speak both Arabic and English find them confusing and mostly pointless. Take the Body Shop as an example. English speakers (specifically Americans) understand that the name of the store is a play on words. A car goes to the body shop to get fixed up. A person goes to the Body Shop to get lotions and oils to fix themselves up. To a non English speaker the concept is lost. It is the same with most of these stores.

For Jono, it is the LAW in most Arabic speaking countries to have the signs in Arabic and English. The Arabic goes first (on the right, they read right to left) when listed side by side and Arabic goes on top when stacked. I am not sure if Asian countries have that rule or not.

For AAA, I am assuming you are referring to the Rolex, Calvin Klien, Lacoste and luxury logos. The interesting thing about that is they ARE representing the SPIRIT of the brand and not just aping letter forms. Those luxury companies use traditional serif type to show class, luxury and tradition. The traditional Arabic script gives the same connotation for native Arabic speakers. The classical calligraphic Arabic letter forms used in these logos are the equivalent of the classic Latin and Roman inspired letter forms used in English. Class and history are implied with their use.

Sorry for the long comment. Just my 2 cents, or after the conversion from dollars to dirhams, my 7 fills.
January 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJonathon
Jonathon - thanks for the post. Good info and it jives with what i had learned on my short trip.
January 21, 2009 | Registered Commenterjj
An interesting note, the KFC logo up there is the only one that isn't translated literally. It is literally "Chicken, Kentucky (style)". The Kentucky is made into adjective form to describe the arabic word "chicken". Having traveled in the middle east somewhat, I've seen lots of these signs, and enjoy them thoroughly =)
January 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDavid D
David - thanks! I really appreciate the insight.
January 21, 2009 | Registered Commenterjj
TGI Friday's knows that Muslims have a different idea about why Friday is a good day, right?
January 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJoe
I'd be curious to see what more street level type products would look like, I for one don't spend a lot of time at the Louis Vuitton shop, but I have seen some seriously crazy packaging on toys etc. sold in the Middle East.
January 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterServiceburo
Thank you for posting this.

I am studying graphic design in Thailand (if you can see the architecture design of the buddhist temple here, you can imagine how much we take hand craft skill very seriously) and one of the earliest typography project we have to do is convert English logo into Thai. It wasn't that fun but I can appreciate the aesthetic value of it.

The criteria for grading is of course, preserve the weight of the font, colors, etc.

Just type into google image "thai coke" and the ultra cool Coke logo in Thai will come up.
January 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpanasit
**January 21,2009|Jonathon**

Interesting post. Only one issue though.

"Take the Body Shop as an example. English speakers (specifically Americans) understand that the name of the store is a play on words. A car goes to the body shop to get fixed up. A person goes to the Body Shop to get lotions and oils to fix themselves up."

Stated with conviction but ultimately inaccurate. Body shop was a UK company originally and "body shop" as a phrase for a service garage or "pannel beater" is not in common use in the UK even in the current transatlantic tv era.

It would be simpler to assume that since it's a shop for your body they named it The Body shop.

Not a play on words I'm afraid.
January 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterD. Hepburn

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