Here is something I never really gave much thought to, for some reason. Yet, here we are, in the era of superterrorism, with organizations recruiting globally, waging war against superpowers, and raising billions of dollars worldwide to fuel their criminal endeavors. As strange and twisted as it may seem, terrorism is big business, and as with every big business, brand identities and logos play crucial roles in their success.
The Nazis had the swastika, stark gothic architecture, and a penchant for tailored uniforms. The KKK had the white robes and hoods and burning crosses. Mussolini’s fascist thugs had brown shirts and noisy leather boots. Skinheads have shaved heads, nylon flight jackets and combat boots. Today’s evil would-be empires have their own brand identities as well: Think about how terrorists usually present themselves to the world: Ski masks. AK-47s or RPGs. Suicide bomber vests. Red bandannas. Black bandannas. Green bandannas. Whatever. They all have their gang colors. Their own distinct cultural identities… and their own logos.
From the Ironic Sans blog:
Terrorist groups, like any organization, need brand identities. With so many groups claiming credit for terrorist acts, and so many videotapes being put out featuring men in ski masks, it’s hard to keep track of which group committed what violent act. So terrorist organizations have logos. It recently occurred to me that someone had to actually design those logos. But how did they decide who gets to do it? Did the job go to whichever terrorist had a copy of Adobe Illustrator?
I did some research and rounded up as many logos as I could find from terrorist groups past and present. While I hate to give terrorists any more attention, I still think it’s interesting to see the various approaches they took in their logos, and wonder what considerations went into designing them. Does the logo successfully convey the organization’s message? Is it confusingly similar to another group’s logo? Does it exhibit excessive drop shadows, gradients, or use of whatever font is the Arabic equivalent of Papyrus?
Quick Disclaimer: I picked these terrorist groups from a list of designated terrorist organizations on Wikipedia. Since Wikipedia is a user-edited website, I can’t verify who decided these groups are terrorist organizations. So if it turns out one of these groups is an actual army or a legitimate non-violent organization, don’t blame me.
For those of you whom this post might offend (after all, terrorism is one of those things that most of us may have trouble trivializing), Dave (the author of the post) offers these words:
Note:This weekend, an Al Qaeda suicide bomber killed 150 people in a market north of Baghdad. Another 250 were wounded. When this news broke, I had already begun working on this blog entry, and thinking of those victims made it hard to finish. So I just want to be clear that, although this entry focuses on a relatively trivial aspect of terror organizations, it is in no way intended to make light of terrorism. The guns, the blades, the maps of Israel, and other elements in these logos do effectively communicate with painful clarity what some of these groups intend. While my overview of terrorist logos is meant half-seriously as an examination of graphic design in a place we might not think to look, I don’t want to minimize the devastation these groups have wrought.