Monthly Archives: July 2012

We can brand! 01

By Admin I : The only positive aspect of being angry intuitive reviewers, is that once we see good work, we go crazy about it. Yes, we can brand! Yes, we do have a good design vibe going in some design houses in Lebanon, where it is a passion, not a product that can be sold in the fish market.

The purpose of this post is highlighting good design processes mainly dealing with restaurant/nightclub branding, an aspect that is highly mistreated in Lebanon, falling in the gap of the “trend” and now the trend is the kitsch, retro looking restaurants (which actually ended 2 years ago, just for you to know) yet ‘Laziz’ and ‘Leila’ wannabes are still invading the market. So staying away from those stereotypical design behaviors, and the Rana Salam storm (man, why do we have to mention her in every design post?) here are some successful branding jobs:

MAD Beirut by ‘Paperview’

It’s just the right example to back up my “I hate minimalism” theory! You know the feeling that gets you back to where you used to actually experiment with a design, way before being hit by the pretentious ‘white space’. It’s that feeling that gets you ‘mad’ because you lost your visual ‘balls’! (the visual ones only!)

MAD Beirut works on an intricate collage forming a psychedelic visual with a hint of ‘pop’. The rich colorful patterns are very well balanced with a black and white layout for menu and cards, with chunks of black highlights insuring a good sense of navigation for the reader. Believe me i could go hours talking about this experimental branding job, working very well with the identity of the nightclub. MAD’s logo consists of a very present typographical approach, personalized lettering, also aimed to contain the pattern used in the whole brand identity.

Creating an identity for a club like this was fun to say the least. The goal was to create an identity that was visually strong, fun, a tad psychotic, and simply had a mind of its own. Graphics were made to look as though they had been seen through a kaleidoscope in a world where madness was not just accepted but celebrated.
Different materials, and printing techniques were used to help translate MAD’s visual goal, from Plastic 3D place mats to menus that look quite simple, but peek inside and you will find it has a mind of its own.

Who can compete with that?!

Secteur 75 by ‘kite’

What’s mainly impressive in the Secteur 75 brand identity is that it effortlessly answers a question of how to contextualize a branding job, make it culturally engaging, follow the city’s vibe and still look fresh and original.

To me, it’s the silkscreening inspiration taking this job to a whole other level; the injection of a clean sans serif, probably ‘Trade Gothic’, the interesting experimental feel of the photography and the different placements are what make this brand an eye candy. It makes you feel Beirut, without directly seeing it, dropping the deja-vu vintage photographs by using shots taken from around the world reflecting the rich feel of our city, off-cliches. It is when minimalism works so well that you cannot complain, it is exactly what I mean by enriching design jobs with cultural influences and dropping ‘fancy’ where there’s no room for it!


Secteur 75 is a pub-restaurant serving international cuisine in an upcoming neighborhood in Beirut.
The identity puts the logotype against an eclectic visual system. The imagery used is a set of collected photographs from different geographic locations. Secteur 75 portrayed through and against different photographs collected from diverse trips around the world draws upon the notion of contextual place that was triggered throughout the design process. The flexibility of the printing method (silkscreen on canvas) first used for the menu production allowed for different logo positioning and conjured a concept elaboration. This approach was carried unto the different applications through different printing methods and helped re-emphasize the original concept.



Illustration by Admin I


Glitters, models and comic sans!

By Admin H : It is the weddings advertising season all over again! The so-calling-themselves ‘international’ fashion designers started ‘decorating’ building facades with their gigantic creations spending thousands of dollars on the space rental and printing, while pretending not being able to afford a professional designer’s help that can save us double the pain of seeing outdated gowns combined with hideous layouts and typefaces!! (Some type treatments are just unacceptable on a brochure, so just imagine the torture of a huge scale dimension! booo comic sans!)
Other than the type’s hasty choice, those designers can barely get a decent model (‘D cup’ boobs not included), lucky for them agencies aren’t really doing a great job in that field either. It also applies to male related wedding ads, whether promoting wedding suits or wedding rings, they just use models that have nothing to do with the image of a ‘dream man’ (talking about mine at least): feminine looks, almost tattooed eyebrows, lips of an angel (I wonder how does those look), and Photoshop-ed dimples.

Working on wedding adverting accounts myself, (no names for you!), I’ve been in contact with talented photographers (yes those that make you pay a fortune on your wedding’s photography and still can’t afford an ad), though before stepping into this industry, I thought that designer X was someone struggling to stand out; her low budget ads execution and the amateur branding job (what we call, ‘done by her niece’ or by who other than ‘Maliks’) used to make me wish her good luck; yet coming to face her as a high budget advertiser and as actually having an elite customers list, drove me nuts!

After playing all the amateurs ad games, it finally hits you: Lebanese fashion designers campaigns could get you insane, talking about the ones filling the roads with hideous artworks even topping the plastic surgery loan ads or the “you may now kiss the banker” outdoors..

Wishing you year-long glitters, this season makes my advertising buds very very sad!

When fashion is NOT for all!

By Admin I : We have introduced you earlier to this great initiative called “The Creative Space Beirut” in a series of posts, and an exclusive coverage for their second collection exhibition at Beirut Art Center.

Proudly being a part of this space, we’d like to take you on a ride visiting the struggles one can face while trying to establish an NGO in Lebanon, especially when it’s related to the field of the “riches et nouveau-riches”, when sometimes raw talent is not enough to break through.

In the new term of this free fashion program, 2 new students were added to the group, and their only fault was being veiled; at least for some of the fashion boutiques in town. We’re sadly reporting what happened during the trend reports, when students were having a look at the new collections released in Beirut, which is supposedly labeled a diverse city for everyone. It is somehow ironic how rich faux-hipsters can enter international brands stores, while a veiled group of students can’t, or let’s pretend being nice and say “they’re not very welcomed to”. It is more ironic when brands like ‘Chloe’ and ‘Stella McCartney’ allow the group to go check the collection, while a shop owned by a Lebanese like ‘Sophie’s Choice’ showed an almighty form of discrimination and kicked the group out, minutes after they came in (after taking the permission), followed by the owner herself asking employees to wipe the floor seconds after leaving. It’s almost like Cinderella or some other sort of bloggers drama; this time the cause wasn’t a parking spot at a restaurant, no foreign workers, just fashion students checking brands and designers; it’s a whole issue of discrimination based on appearance.

Creative Space has been through more than one obstacle, from the lack of resources to logistics to the recent discriminative issue, just because they chose to let go stereotypes and look for people in need, creating opportunities through education.

We’re not here accusing anyone of anything, we’re just portraying an incident that can happen even in NY, when black celebs used to be kicked out of elite brands shops just because they were black and had no star dust on, which doesn’t by any chance justify our pretentious shop owners/managers interaction with a group doing trend reports, a very basic step of the fashion design process; hmm, would that happen if ESMOD was the school behind those students? me doubt it, me don’t even care!

The space is now in the process of making their third collection with a marine inspiration preparing a launching event on the 23rd of August at one of the city’s most interesting fashion spots, 6:05 Depeche Mode, Downtown Beirut; on another note, the space located in Jeitawi-Ashrafieh is now available for everyone planning events and workshops, still in cooperation with NY’s Parson’s New School, and international designers like Donna Karen, Diane von Furstenberg and others.

Leo Burnett Beirut’s 2012/2q GPC: Transparency?!

By Admin I : So we’re reaching a new pattern of reviews here, dealing with a huge multinational agency such as Leo Burnett is by no means underestimated, at least by brofessionals like us, since we’re pretty sure they can barely read our usual reviews without rolling eyes and using their pretentious attitudes saying “Who the hell are those bloggers?!”

Whether you can digest criticism or not – or not – and I surely don’t mean employees only, we’re here talking about senior executives and clients; we came across your GPC report, and lucky us, the report is available for the public!

So why wasting a chance to review how an agency asses itself, how a change in behavior is perceived by the so-called ‘creatives’ after a roller-coaster year, talking about advertising in general, and Leo Burnett Beirut in particular (Exotica alone is enough proof!)

The report is an ego nirvana celebration with lots of cheese even though the whole industry is shifting towards more rational realistic policies, going far from the orthodox methods of aging multinationals:

It’s clear from our performance at Cannes that we’re firing on all cylinders, and our HumanKind philosophy is helping to push the needle forward for the entire industry”



So back to the GPC results, and if you aren’t familiar with it, the GPC was founded by Donald Gunn and Michael Conrad as a quality control mechanism for Leo Burnett Worldwide and the scale is distributed as following:

1 – Appalling 
 2 – Destructive 
3 – Not Competitive 
4 – Cliche
 5 – Innovative Strategy 
6 – Fresh Idea
 7 – Excellence in Craft 
8 – New standard in the category 
9 – New standard in advertising 
10 – Best in the world, bar none

Leo Burnett Beirut had an 8+ ranking this quarter, which is highly debatable (chill! we’re not pretending to know more than the board of executives, but we’re just stating our minds). The ranking is based on the ability to change behavior through creative work and it’s what mainly determines promotions and bonuses within the agency (wish everyone can do a bad performance and still grab a bonus!)

Johnnie Walker grabbed 3 high rankings in the GPC, kind of expected for an inspirational campaign but somehow overrated especially that it became redundant and never “changed behavior” unless making people drunk is considered a notable behavior change.

Diageo – Johnnie Walker

Keep Walking Lebanon – Nadine Labaki

Leo Burnett / Beirut

GPC score 8.0

Category: Integrated

Diageo – Johnnie Walker

Keep Walking Lebanon / Nadine Labaki – On Set

Leo Burnett / Beirut

GPC score 7.3

Category: Film

Diageo – Johnnie Walker

Keep Walking Lebanon / Nadine Labaki – On Screen

Leo Burnett / Beirut

GPC score 7.6

Category: Film

The second campaign assessed was café super Brazil, and a 7.7 is a well deserved ranking here: the campaign portrayed a genuine Lebanese ritual and revived a brand that was struggling in the market!

Café Super Brasil Read the Country’s Fortune

Leo Burnett / Beirut

GPC score 7.7 / 7.8

Category: Integrated / Film

Himaya is probably one of the most overrated campaigns of the year! A Cannes Lions, and a 7.7 GPC ranking for a campaign that was reported inspired* (check this link)

Himaya Break the Silence

Leo Burnett / Beirut

GPC score 7.7 (Cannes Bronze PR Lion)

Category: Integrated

Himaya Repetition

Leo Burnett / Beirut

GPC score 7.7

Category: Film

Himaya Predator In The Park

Leo Burnett / Beirut

GPC score 7.2

Category: Ambient Media

Another campaign grabbing a well deserved 7.0 ranking for a good concept but somehow a weak execution.

Procter & Gamble – Max Factor

Evil Eye

Leo Burnett / Beirut

GPC score 7.0

Category: Print

What mainly raised Leo Burnett Beirut’s GPC to 8 is a 9.0 ranking for Farid Chehab’s book “A bet for a national conscience” weirdly perceived as a campaign, and weirdly assessed as behavior changing; it’s almost like who dares to give Leo Burnett MENA’s chairman a low ranking, people need their jobs in the end.

Leo Burnett Beirut A Bet For A National Conscience

Leo Burnett / Beirut

GPC score 9.0

Category: Integrated

No matter how transparent ad-men pretend to be, advertising seems like a field struggling to move forward but always faced by traditional media and thinking processes. Back then, they thought advertising could change the world (well, some are still convinced) yet now, it’s clear that “World-changing” ideas can barely reach an award show and end by a raise or a bonus.

 Wishing Leo Beirut a good luck for the next few months of 2012, which seem more promising after the well done Alfa ad and Audi Bank animations, but remains a not very good year on so many levels.  

Al Rifai promotes new packs

By Admin I : It is always a delight to spot a campaign with some good amount of guts, or what we call “ballvertising” (it might sound sleazy but who cares, we felt like inventing a word!). Al Rifai decided to redesign their packs, a design process to be discussed later in this post, but what is mainly “in your face” in this ad is the wit. Intermarkets is definitely an agency that knows how to juggle Arabic copywriting, overdone and tacky sometimes but spot on and very clever most of the times especially when going informally Lebanese. To promote the new packs the campaign took two tangents. One focusing on the fact that the packs were newly released and the other still highlighting the high quality of the blends; there’s an almost “bullshit” phase in advertising where they assume a product has reached a maturity level, but ironically, the most successful campaigns are generated by going off that phase and flattening pretentious marketing strategies to bring back the close brand-audience communication tools.

Al Rifai went the opposite direction featuring the product as perceived by competition, applying their “competition went nuts!” concept using a witty play on words “el sou’ ma byettekal” to reinforce their confident presence in the lebanese market dropping all sorts of food advertising cliches (yes, a post without the word “cliche” cannot exist!). There’s no fake “yum-orgasm” moment, no slow-motion shiny bigger than usual nuts and certainly no fake promises. One aspect that puts a damn edgy full stop, ending competition.

On a design note, all food packages are currently going through a lifting process to fit some new design/marketing rules. It’s all about a more subtle minimal visual approach with a focus on typography. Al Rifai is still very recognizable keeping a link with its audience (especially the not-so-delicious looking nuts picture) but totally lost the tacky shiny material and the gradient hues. It’s slick, matt using 3 solid colors, a deep red, a yellow-orange and a black keeping a somehow useless gold line yet staying in total harmony with the balls they flashed earlier in their campaign.

No “La vie en rose” track playing, no unappealing violet packages, just mere attitude!

Cheers to ballvertising, just don’t give a nut about it! (gawd those are two successive cheesy expressions!)

Daftar: An experimental design platform

By Admin I : Having a low advertising season is probably considered the only positive aspect of this super hot Lebanese summer; We can dig deeper in design, observe, analyze, bullshit and even come across some impressive initiatives taking place in more than 1 field of visual arts.

During all our online journey, we have talked so much about our cultural identity that you probably got sick of it, but our new catch does totally cherish our local and regional cultural aspects and is faithful to documenting and promoting Arabic design/designers, artworks and most importantly Arabic typography; ‘Daftar‘ is an online publication of Arab arts, designs & expressions, strictly in Arabic, where every issue features a large selection of submitted artworks emerging from multidisciplinary (a fancy overused expression) backgrounds using open media, which is somehow close to Bak and other magazines, but still considered innovative in the Arab world.

‘Daftar’ is already in its 3rd issue and proving to reach a quite large audience of design enthusiasts,  even if some of the art works look too generic or even inspired by certain styles and movements while other show great potentials using genuine techniques.

What intrigued me in ‘Daftar’ as an initiative is the role that such publication can serve, precisely talking about documenting design works of Arabs that are losing interest in questioning their own backgrounds, or even producing Arab inspired design works, strictly following the worldwide reach for Arabic typography without going deeper in their research. On another note, this online platform will play a more important role on a long term, serving an analytical purpose, where we can assess our current visual arts situation through featured art works that can reflect young designers’ disciplines.

‘Daftar’ is one of the very few steps towards recreating an Arab design scene, and hopefully reformulating a whole audience’s perception far from the Rana Salam/Nada Debs/Reza Abedini influences, flooding the commercial scene with their products and fake copycatters!

Keskun! (Just saying cheers in Arabic you sick frustrated morons!)

Photo Credits: @Hadyfakhry

Leila tempting Bacchus!

By Admin I : And it was a hell of a night at the temple of Bacchus – Baalbek, witnessing our first Mashrou3 Leila concert after being in a secret affair with Leila for a couple of years. So the old monumental space got back to life, and Bacchus himself wore his faux-hipster outfit, showed his sexy hairy legs and joined the epic performance!

Everything was out of this world with this extremely talented band, whether the new music or their well-known tracks, everyone felt the mysterious flow of energy driven by the venue, and of course by “Hamed” who was in a euphoric state of being, performing at the dream stage of every local artist. Each member of Mashrou3 Leila was performing to the fullest, even the boring lady in red, while the mystic roman aura was gracefully flaunting between Haig (the violinist) and Hamed (The lead singer) proving how each member of this band is a blooming talent, complementing the one the other.

A lot has been written and said about Leila going to Baalbek; some people thought the step came too early for a barely 5 year old band with 2 albums, not to mention the stereotypical background of its members and audience bla bla bla, but let me tell you: For once, Baalbek and whoever is behind such festivals is listening to the young audience, which is not quite beneficial on a financial note, but totally reflects a cultural sustainability for a certain festival, knowing that an audience of fake Cuban cigars and silicon boobs wouldn’t really be able to preserve such a huge heritage; call it rainbows, unicorns, Goths, call it whatsoever: Baalbek’s heritage has officially been renovated!

It wasn’t only about teenagers almost touching Hamed’s shoes on stage, or counting the stitches of his super tight leather pants, it was a flow of genuine music, of inspiration and a true reflection of an alternative identity that whether you like it or not, is what’s molding our culture. Mashrou3 Leila was able to group in one very special place, numerous members of the Lebanese creative scene, their egos, and alter egos, making the whole event, one of the unforgettable nights of Baalbek.

Still pretending we stayed for the after-party,

Cheers to Leila!