Tony Naqvi
Experience Design

When global reach meets local expertise

Red Sea

Brand Design

Pulling power

When Red Sea set out to expand their operations into new territories, they wanted to let new audiences know about their powerful supply chain capabilities with a bold and impactful brand.

A friend of a mutual friend told them about me, and before you know it, I was hauled in to take on the task.

I was given a completely clean slate to work with, beyond a few stipulations from management regarding content and tone of voice, which meant I was free from any corporate or existing brand restrictions.

Except it needed to be in 5 (5!) different languages, including Cyrillic, Arabic, Farsi and Urdu. There's always a bloody catch.

You're often left with a simple, logical conclusion that just makes sense

Forever the optimist (ha!), I went to work conjuring up a new brand identity that would work in multiple languages, across new territories, with new audiences.

First thing I needed was a hook to pull potential new customers in - something that helped articulate the incredible power Red Sea has to supply what you need to where you need it.

Hang on, what was that? What you need to where you need it... hmmm. Surely it wasn't that easy. Well, you know - for a genius designer lots of things come easy.

Seriously though, working through and distilling the brand down to it's essence sometimes makes it that easy - you're often left with a simple and logical conclusion that just makes sense and works.

A statement as ambitious as this needed to be back with a commanding and influential brand design.

It should be bold, a bit daring, distinctive, and attention-grabbing. Yep, definitely (if you know anything about colour theory) red then.

For the logo, I had sketched a few ideas down, but nothing really popped out at me. I thought about the idea of reflection - that the brands ambition should reflect the customers ambition - and playing with the initials R and S I eventually arrived at something that worked. Combined with a carefully and precisely typeset wordmark, I had something that was simple, stylish, and tidy.

The brands ambition should reflect the customers ambition

Speaking your language

Building out the design system, the most challenging element was the multiple languages. Anyone who's had to deal with implementing a multilingual design system will know it can be a tough nut to crack; varying text length, LTR/RTL layouts, multi-language fonts, as well as cultural awareness, translation etc.

I began solving this by trying to find a typeface that contained character sets for all 5 languages - having just a single typeface would mean less hassle maintaining a consistent typographic system for content creation.
I fortunately discovered a brilliant small Indonesian foundry, Namela, who had just what I was looking for.

Armed with my shiny new fonts, I set to work on a layout grid, typographic standards, colour usage (a secondary black was a great compliment to the primary red) , and UI element standards for branded content and the website, iterating on the design structure until I had a balanced and scalable compoistion.

For the Tone of Voice, the most significant consideration was communicating Red Sea's envious global presence, but also the brands confident and direct approach.

The marketing team at Red Sea are proper old school zero-bullshit, no waffle salesmen, so I focussed the messaging platform on highlighting their local insights and expertise that can only come from long-standing 'boots on the ground' relationships with native supply chains. These guys know what talking about.

Insights and expertise that can only come from long-standing 'boots on the ground' relationships

Rounding off the visual identity phase, I created all the standard stationary templates, guidelines to govern implementation (I always include an 'implementation phase' with a client's content creators to show them how to use a design system correctly), and a UI stencil for future digital applications, the first of which would be the website.

Digital narrative

Unusually for a corporate marketing site, I omitted any direct sales pitch. It took some convincing with the team at Red Sea, however they eventually came around to the idea that it was critical to the success of the new brand that the site first and foremost tell the Red Sea story, it's rise to prominence based on a unwavering commitment to service excellence, and how that has made a meaningful and measurable impact on the growth and success of its customers too.

The story is captured in a combination of video and motion graphics that delivers a potent and memorable message - one of determination, tenacity, reliability, and sheer bloody hard work.

This is Red Sea.

The end result is a potent and bold brand design that matches Red Sea vision.

Speaking with the team afterwards, they expressed their delight in having a beautifully balanced design system that integrates multiple language so well, and that captures the essence of the Red Sea story and purpose.

With a pat on the back from Mike and Lee, we shook hands and called it a day. But it wasn't the last time we'd work together...

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