Technical analysis of terrorist graphic/brand design

A long and fascinating review of the 2013 book Branding Terror, which presents a detailed analysis of the visual identity of terrorist and non-state-actor insurgent groups around the world and over time. Underground and criminalized subcultures have produced some remarkable and long-lived iconography, from the Christian fish in the catacombs to the Jolly Roger. Regine has interviewed Artur Beifuss, who contributed an introduction to the book, and the discussion is fascinating.

Which one do you think is the worst conveyor of ideology? The one(s) that completely missed the point?

All of the logos analyzed in Branding Terror make some kind of ideological reference. None of them really misses the point. However, there are some logos that are completely overloaded with references and elements, the logo of the Islamic Organization of Uzbekistan as a good example. It has so much Arabic text in it that one does not know where to look first. Also, this particular logo would be lost on all recipients that can't understand Arabic.

Does branding a terrorist organization has to respond to the same rules and requirements than branding any commercial product? Or do you find that other 'laws' are playing?

In a way it has to respond to the same rules, yes. People have to know what you stand for, and the logo should be easily recognizable. However, terrorism means violence and death in most of the times. Even terrorist groups find it difficult to advertise for that. In the letters from Attobotad for example Al-Qaeda media advisors recommended Bin Laden to keep a distance to the Al-Qaeda branch in Iraq because they started beheading people. This is not something that Al-Qaeda central - if you want to call it like this - wants to be associated with. They were losing followers over that.

Branding Terror. The Logotypes and Iconography of Insurgent Groups and Terrorist Organizations [We Make Money Not Art]

Branding Terror. The Logotypes and Iconography of Insurgent Groups and Terrorist Organizations [Amazon]

Notable Replies

  1. Let's compare to the highly funded state sponsored organization:

  2. I agree that any violence-based ideologically-driven organisation is a bunch of stupid fucks who'd serve the world better as corpses, but it's important to bear in mind that one person's terrorist is another's freedom fighter. It depends how you fall politically as to who is a terrorist, which is why I feel the title is too broad to have any true meaning.

    IRT graphics: it's fascinating man... The point is that everything utilises graphic design, so why the hell not analyse it? AQ's english language magazine Inspire is particularly fascinating since it's a whole magazine that's notionally targeted towards western tastes, but is full of shockingly poor design (not to mention taste).

    I'd also generally say that most of these logos suck fucking ass, but what do you expect from people who are stupid enough to be in any such organisation?

  3. Excessively busy and cluttered, subtitle text virtually illegible at any distance. D+ at best.

    Some of NRO mission badges, though...

  4. So, um, no true Scotsman is, by definition, anything other than truly Scottish?

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