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In this months edition of Discover our Family, Hessa Al Ali, the creator of our Years of Culture logos gives us an insight into the creative processes of obtaining these logos, her inspirations and how they come to life!

What inspires you when you create these logos?

There is the visual inspiration, which is looking at things that subliminally reminds the viewer of what you’re referring to, without it being a literal representation. For example in Qatar Japan 2012 logo I tried to reference how calligraphy was big in Japan and also in Qatar and I wanted the logo to be influenced by the brush calligraphy that they use which is very delicate and very unique way of writing, so I wrote the word Qatar in Arabic using the brush technique.


The second kind of inspiration for me is the physiological inspiration, which makes the logo go a step further from just a good looking logo, where it delivers the message that it is intended to deliver. For example the Qatar UK 2013 logo connects Qatar and UK using the same shape, thus showing how these two cultures are connected that they almost morph into one. And that was my way of showing how we as Qatari’s view UK as kind of a second home that we are deeply connected to. And that’s what I tried to do with the colors too, the pinkish purple part of the logo is a mixture of the Qatari maroon with the Union Jack colors, and the 2nd color the purplish blue was a mixture of the Qatari maroon and the Union Jack blue, thus creating a new palette that is unique but at the same time gave a visual reference to these flags, so it reminded you of the 2 countries without using the exact flag colors.


What aspect of each culture appealed to you?

I look at what makes the culture unique, and with this I try to step out of what I’m used to seeing and try to see it as if I’m looking at it for the first time. If you are a fish in water and people ask you to describe water your answer would be: what is water? So I step out of my norm and try to pretend to be looking at these images for the first time and what would strike me. Like in Qatar Turkey 2015 logo, I tried to connect the Islamic art aspect of both countries and how it is very visible everywhere, especially in architecture, and then looked at how Islamic tiles have connected patterns that each tile alone doesn’t show you the full picture unless you put all those tiles together. Then I looked at Tulips, which are the main flowers of the Ottoman Empire and have been very significant as a sign of royalty. So I decided to break down the letters into parts to make these geometric shapes that are separated but connected (just like tiles) and where some have Tulip shapes.


I also decided to go further and develop patterns using the shapes in the logo and wanted this brand to look colorful and busy with patterns just like Islamic patterns that you see when you visit mosques. I also wanted to frame the logo with the pattern to show how titles are framed in Islamic art many times (book titles, or names, similar to Qur’an covers) which is still in the process of finalizing I can just show you few samples but those are not final:


What aspect of the Qatari culture do you always strive to highlight in your work?

I strive to show that we are a very modern nation that is very attached to our roots and our traditions, and that we can be both. I dread when we are only represented to the west as a desert with camels and imagery of falcons and a little girl wearing “bokhnag” with henna in her hands that unfortunately became the cliché of many major brands in Qatar, that’s part of us but that’s not all. We are a contemporary modern society that enjoy preserving traditions and heritage in a modern way and I want to show that, show something that people didn’t expect of us, or show them that sometimes we are not so different despite that we look and dress differently. Example photography guide that was created for Qatar UK, keywords for them (fashionable, trendy, cool, modern, striking, juxtaposition).


What is the process of creating these brilliant logos?

Sometimes I just see it in my head after researching for days, and rush to my sketchbook to put it down before I forget it, and sometimes I just sketch many things and think to myself “I don’t know if I ever will get there” then I look at the sketches couple of days after and one of them looks like it has potential to me so I develop it further and discover that I had it all along.

My process is divided into 5 phases:

Defining the brand strategy: it’s when I sit and come up with adjectives that describe the brand personality, that helps me in later stages when I look at my design to see if it really fits with that personality that I defined early on.

Researching visuals that communicate the brand: they can be images of anything from people, buildings, plants, to patterns and colors. I create a folder and keep dragging images to it from the web and sometimes images I took myself of things that felt like they belong there, and I end up with a folder full of things that sometimes more than 1000. Then I start editing and narrowing down and things start to become clearer of the direction that I’m supposed to go in.

Making a mood-board mixed with the visuals and words: once I edit down my visuals I put them on a mood-board with my adjectives and start creating a reference for myself.  Example: Qatar Japan mood-board.


Sketching: I start sketching, this phase basically start from the beginning and ends whenever I stumble into the final logo, whenever I start sketching I don’t really know what I will make, or what will the logo look like, I’m watching the process just like an outsider and many times I’m surprised with the results. It’s important to have an open mind and a clear mind when starting a new project, so that you make the most of the endless possibilities that could happen during that creative process.


Finalizing: once I have the “winner” (that’s what I call the sketch that wins to be the logo) I start putting it into illustrator and trace it, edit, edit, and keep editing till it’s perfect.

Presentation: I put the logo into a presentation where I explain what it is, and show examples of the potential of how it can be used. I very rarely present more than 1 direction; in fact I can only remember 3 times where I presented 2 or 3 directions. Most of the times I present 1 logo only, because most of the time I’m sure that this is the best direction for this project. When I’m not sure which one is best I let other people decide which one they want.  And with years of culture I presented 2 directions for Qatar Japan, 1 direction for Qatar UK, and 1 for Qatar turkey.

You know this process sometimes goes for 24 hours straight, sometimes its an hour everyday. Sometimes I don’t touch it at all for days and one day I feel inspired. It’s just whenever I feel creative I go for it and I don’t stop until I feel that I can no longer give. So when I work for 24 hours it doesn’t feel like 24 hours it feels like 3 hours because when I go in too deep in the process I forget my surroundings almost like in a trance estate that sometimes when someone talk to me I don’t hear them.

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