As I became more involved in volunteering for the Arab Center of Washington, it became increasingly clear that I could contribute most by helping them develop a functional, attractive, and updated website. Re-creating the website provided a nice opportunity to re-brand the ACW, and the board expressed interest in seeing possible new designs. The original logo had circular text, and didn’t have much flexibility in implementation or theming.
I soon found myself chewing over the brand in my mind all the time – whether I was riding the bus, walking the dog, or in the shower, I couldn’t help but try to puzzle out a way to express everything the ACW desired to express in a clean, simple, and understandable brand. There aren’t many icons or themes that reflect the state of Washington without being kitschy and overused, yet the brand had to show its origin prominently. There is quite a lot of styling, iconography, and typography to reflect the Middle East, but even then, the board expressed a strong desire to abstain from distinctly Islamic or national symbols, being a a-political and a-religious organization. I couldn’t seem to find anything in common between the two.
Using a map in a logo for something with a region in the name (or otherwise, come to think of it) is always something that should be considered very carefully. Most regions don’t have an immediately recognizable shape, and map-based logos can easily look cluttered, clunky, or dated. That caveat in mind, I tried to avoid using the shape of the state of Washington in the logo, but was hard pressed to find much else that would convey the ACW’s desired message. I tried my hand at an Arabic calligram with the words “arab center of washington” in the shape of an orca, but I’m afraid I’m much better at graphic design than calligraphy. I tried using the first letter of “Washington” in Arabic (و) and integrating that as an icon, but it wasn’t recognizable – even to native Arabic speakers. I finally tried adapting an early Qur’anic script style into a shape that vaguely resembled the state, but the board of the ACW was not enthusiastic.
I shelved the project for a time, but continued to try to assemble the two cultures visually in my mind. It was in the midst of that line of thought on the bus when I saw a logo on a passing billboard out of the corner of my eye, and the blurred shape rendered in my mind as the state of Washington within a mosaic. I later found that the logo I saw was something for a hospital and had a cross within a circle, but it was enough to inspire the design.
It didn’t take long for the logo to take shape from there. I created four implementation options to present to the board, and not long later, the ACW had a new logo, brand, and identity.