What If Terror Group Logos Were Brand Logos?

What If Terror Group Logos Were Brand Logos?

A new book combines design insight with counterterrorism intelligence for a new look into terrorist operations.

Ryan Gerhardt
  • 17 april 2013

It seems that we can no longer turn on the news or pick up a paper without hearing about new terrorist attacks or the formation of an insurgent organization. With so much destruction and suffering caused by these organizations, you may find yourself wondering how they continue to recruit supporters.

Artur Beifuss and Francesco Trivini Bellini are hoping to shed some light on the topic by using an underutilized, and somewhat unique, angle: logos.

Terror and insurgent groups are effectively brands, using logos, textiles, and other visuals to define their group identity, exhibit their aims, and recruit new supporters. Bellini, a creative director, and Beifuss, a former counterterrorism analyst for the UN, have written a new book called Branding Terror that attempts to discern these aims and tactics by exploring the visual identifiers of 60 terror organizations from around the world.




While this is inextricably a charged topic, the authors say

Branding Terror does not seek to make any political statements; rather, it offers insight into an understudied area of counterintelligence, and provides an original and provocative source of inspiration for graphic designers.

The book, in addition to providing research and background into the identified groups, analyzes the group’s branding strategies in detail through the ‘symbolism, colors, and typography of its logo and flag.’ They selected the groups by looking at a wide range of official government lists of terror groups, from administrations around the world, trying to distill a highly disparate culture.




What are some of the things they found?

The majority of the groups covered in the book are involved in armed struggle. Therefore, common elements in their logos include weapons like rifles and swords. Animals and birds of prey . . . a map to locate the group or to show their area of operation . . . [or] a visual way to legitimize armed struggle religiously.


RAF logo from Branding Terror

RAF logo from Branding Terror

While it certainly seems odd to deconstruct the unjustifiable actions of these unstable groups, the book does offer a unique perspective into the aims and methodologies of these organizations. It would be interesting to see if there is a practical application for this knowledge beyond design instruction. Who knows, maybe this could become a new facet in the counterterrorism struggle.

Branding Terror

Images from Branding Terror via It’s Nice That


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