Hebron lies on the southern reaches of the West Bank, and thus on a major faultline in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It has to be one of the last places on earth in which anyone would want to do business. That’s why a couple of designers have proposed what might be the most quixotic rebrand in the world.
Eido Gat and Ziv Schneider, from the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, in Israel, have produced a pro-Palestine visual-identity package for the city, drawing on the graphic traditions of both Islamic art and the modern corporate world. Designed to adorn everything from stamps and coffee mugs to civic Web sites and T-shirts, the campaign is organized around the notion of a hypothetical investors' forum. The hope is to show what Palestinian Hebron would look like if it actually had a discretionary budget to speak of (a problem that doesn’t appear to affect Jewish settlements in the West Bank, as the New York Times reported today).
Some background: Hebron is divided into H1, a Palestinian territory, with about 140,000 inhabitants; and H2, the old city where hundreds of military-guarded Jewish settlers live — illegally, according to international law — among roughly 30,000 Palestinians. The settlements pose a constant threat to residents' well-being, with 86 percent of Palestinians in the old city living in relative poverty, as of 2008, the International Committee on the American Red Cross reports. Tales of travel restrictions, scare tactics, and even children getting pelted with stones as they walk to school are not uncommon.
So in an obvious effort to empower the disenfranchised, Gat and Schneider have called their concept "the new Al-Khaleil," after Hebron’s Palestinian name. The scheme won a Wolda Worldwide Logo Design Annual talent award recently.
The heart of the branding is a hexagon. It’s modeled off decorative patterns that figure prominently at the Cave of the Patriarchs, a sacred site in Hebron for Muslims, Jews, and Christians (and the site of a 1994 massacre of Muslims at prayer by the nutjob right-winger Baruch Goldstein). The designers gave the hexagon a "modern twist" by layering it up into diamonds and 3D cubes — symbols, they say, of "corporate narratives."
The reds and greens are also drawn from the cave, with blue added as a balancing element. Blue might seem like a freighted choice for a logo trying to assert Palestinian authority, but these particular shades studiously avoid the deep-sky tone of the Israeli flag.
The transparent aspects of the logo hint at Hebron’s storied glass industry. For centuries it has been a sort of Murano of the West Bank, with glassblowing factories handed down from one generation to the next. That tradition has diminished some in the midst of "problems of export, the decrease in the number of tourists, and the restrictions on movement of Palestinians," to quote an article in This Week in Palestine.
In this sense, "the new Al-Khaleil" is a sort of fantasy concept designed to conjure up a disappearing past in the image of a superbly uncertain future. Gat and Schneider were allowed to tour Hebron with a police escort for half a day to determine if such a branding scheme would even be possible. They found the city in "much worse shape" than they pictured, a place where politics and religion conspire daily against the rudimentary efficiencies of urban life. Gat admits: "[O]ur branding suggestion is more of an optimistic view of the future." Any way, Hebron will need a lot more than a new logo. But a new logo is at least a start.
[Images via Eido Gat]