Design Stories: Swell Morocco

The original Apple logo, drawn by co-founder Ronald Wayne

What does a logo in a foreign language look like?

Every logo has a story. For Apple, it includes Steve Jobs scrapping the original one (above), which was drawn by co-founder Ronald Wayne. Wayne had resigned and accepted a buyout of his 10% stake for $2,300.

The design Jobs commissioned next became the sleek Apple icon – now one of the most recognizable shapes in the world.

For a look at the process behind logo craft, we sat down with Jennifer Thibault, brand strategist and communications designer with Reboot, a design consultancy for social causes and businesses.

Jen was tasked with a particularly tricky assignment – designing the logo for an elementary school in Morocco.

Not only did Thibault need to learn Arabic lettering, but she also was challenged to portray meaning and context through a symbol and name whose cultural context was completely foreign to her.

“I’ve had to ask myself: Can I use these colors? Are these the colors of the flag of any country that could have negative connotations in Morocco?”

Thibault shared her process in designing the logo for “Al 3ounwane” (Arabic for “The Address”). “The connotation is: this is the place to be,” she explained.



Looks simple right? Think again. According to Jennifer, the logo started out as a mess of sketches like this:Img2

Before it became this:Img3

And then whittled down to this:Img4

Jen explained some of the challenges she had in grounding the design in local context. “I had [to ask] my Moroccan friend [to] send me pictures of a Moroccan school bus because I didn’t even know what color or size or shape they were!”

The client liked the “labyrinth” logo, but wondered what it would look like if –instead of a hexagon – the labyrinth shape traced the path of a house. So Thibault offered this:



Which the client then asked to change back to yellow because it “popped more,” thus bringing our designer back to the previous hexagonal iterations:



For the text, Jen played around with font, lettering, and spacing:







“Designing the Arabic text was hard,” Thibault said. “For example, in Arabic, the name of the school is actually one word, not two, even though it looked like two words from the screen shot of text the client sent me. Putting the icon in the middle of the words like I had done in the English version just wasn’t going to work.”

The final product: (English & Arabic versions)



Thibault’s advice? “As a brand designer, you should be trying to express the entity you’re designing for. There should be something in the typeface, or graphics you’re using that tells us what the product is—and something memorable about it,” Jen told us. “You have to take out your personal preference. Design for the context instead of your personal style.”

Think you’ve got what it takes? New York’s Reboot is hiring for several positions – get the details here.

Now go forth (and have patience).


Nitty Gritty:

28: # of letters in the Arabic alphabet

1976: Year the Apple logo was created

$42BB: Approx. value of a 10% stake in Apple today



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