Apollo's Echo

Meet your trendy graphic designer from, er, the Middle East

I’m old. Born in 70’s, I have difficulty understanding the later generations, and it’s not limited to understanding younger Australians (which being a foreigner and not having a shared cultural history adds to the complexity), even in Iran understanding the youth was difficult for me. Note there’s no negative undertone to my words; younger generations are way different than me and experiencing a different world from what I saw as a kid. They see and so think differently.

Now, why I’m bringing my midlife crisis into the business of design? Because I want to say it’s very challenging for an old, Middle Eastern guy to design a logo for an Australian musician perhaps a decade younger than himself. Remember, I’m coming from a country which western pop music is officially illegal.

I remember as a kid in Tehran, my older cousins used to party with the 70’s disco music, but they had to dim the lights and hang blankets behind the windows so the police and militia won’t notice there’s a party going on and arrest them. Of course, unfortunately, we were not that lucky, or careful all the time and sometimes we ended up running on rooftops and throwing drink bottles to neighbour’s yard in the middle of the night, removing “evidence”.

Apollo's Echo logo

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These ordeals are certainly not good CV bullet points for designing a logo for a Canberra based trendy musician.

Appolo’s echo is a Canberra based growing music project by drummer Mark Levers and his friends.The focus is on 70’s pop and soul classic vinyl as well as making their own original music.

It would be too easy to put some visual elements of the disco era to create the “retro look”, but I tried to re-interpret the 70’s and create a modern look for a living band in the 21st century, not a mimic of dead people of the 70’s. In addition to the challenge I’ve made for myself, I had also a real challenge: the name is too long and hence difficult to put together visually.

I’ve made various typographic manoeuvres for creating a balance of positive and negative space but none of them satisfied me. Also, I wanted the design to be risky and alternative to common conceptions of a pop music band. Australian younger generation — from my own observations — like design to be edgy.

Back to the question of negative and positive space in design, I decided to use a blocky typography so the words can fill each other’s negative spaces and interwind. Also, the Hellenic, enigmatic name evokes the feeling of deliberately being difficult to understand, like a maze or riddle.

Apollo's Echo CD design

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Interestingly, there is an ancient Persian typography technic named Bannaei script, which has the very same specifications; geometric, maze-like, enigmatic, black and white, and with a uniform line width. It used on buildings and put together by mosaics of the same size, and that’s the origin of the name “Bannaei” (Masonry).

So I’ve created this typography for the logo which I think I think is edgy enough for a Canberra based band, a logo with hidden, ancient Asian identity under its skin, and modern and minimalist like circuits of a chip at the same time.

I dislike irrelevant and out of context usage of foreign cultural elements as much as I dislike the fake “retro” design which is prevalent these days. But this design really happened organically and not because of my background. That’s why I like it. To me, it is very Australian indeed. A beautiful, organic mix of the best of the different cultures.

So here you are; your trendy designer from the dusty streets of the angry Middle East.

Brand refresh: Hansa

Hansa: Merging 3 brands into one
Field & Country of Origin: Writing Instruments, Promotional Gifts / Hong Kong
Task: Identity overhaul, package design, Typography
Design Year: 2005 onwards
Keywords: product development, package design, bilingual typography, branding, brand refresh

Challenge: Back in 2005, the company that owns the brand, faced tough competition and a fragmentation of its product branding and identity. The company owned three brands, all active in gift and premium market and they all suffered from poor, inconsistent branding communication.

Solution: I got involved with their project when they asked me to design a catalog for Hansa, which eventually led me to persuade them not only to change the branding communication system but also, abandon their two other brands and merge their product lines into one.

Logo, before and after the transformation
Logo, before and after the transformation

Results: It was a very tough decision for the traditional, family owned company; however, the results were astonishing. After a year, Hansa sales increased by 1.5 times and it became the number one gift brand in the region. The brand has hundreds of products in its portfolio. All package designs were done and sent electronically to various manufacturers in Hong Kong. So, I had to find a way to keep all things in harmony, while keeping the costs down. A two colour (black & silver) uniform design agreed with the client. Some of the items in this picture are sold as low as 1.5 USD, but in terms of positioning, since we changed the brand image, costumers see this brand on par with major premium brands.