Brand name

December 11, 2006

tughra1.jpg

You can’t read these buggers unless you’re fluent in Arabic, but I’m still totally fascinated by the delicate and bold art of Ottoman tughra. Back in the day each Sultan had a unique tughra – an intricate calligraphic monogram that was essentially his official signature, authentication and symbol. Each tughra was pretty strictly composed from the Sultan’s name and his father’s name, the image below is for Sultan Mahmud I. Maybe it’s interesting to think of tughra as a proto-logo, a decorative riff on the name as a form for communicating values.

So much of our visual field these days – from streets to supermarket shopping – is dominated by brand names. But this occurs not just via words, and not only with images: a fusion of language and image seems to be a hallmark of contemporary branding.

mahmud1.jpg

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2 Responses to “Brand name”


  1. In branding, the use of ‘imagery and language’ is secondary to the intent of the engagement with an audience. The execution of branding is normally done through visual media due to its immediacy, so I agree, the above examples are decoration of values as opposed to branding which is the embodiment of values.

  2. nitsirk Says:

    Thanks for your comment. I was reflecting on my (unstated) very basic observation that in everyday life, whether on the street or in the supermarket or whatever, brands are using images with language to identify themselves and sell product. Coming from an art background, that strikes me as both refreshing and really nuanced. Visual art seems to have suppressed language for quite a long time – the tradition of painting became about pictures and text was rare. Of course in the last sixty or eighty years text has flooded art, but I still feel like artworks that incorporate text in a really savvy way are a bit rare. The most interesting image/language crossovers I have come across at the moment are occuring through marketing. I don’t mean to imply that the use of image with language is a conscious intent in branding, just that it is an interesting phenomena.

    I would argue that the tughra was very much an embodiment of the Sultan’s values. Their very existence was an elaborate display of wealth and power, education and culture – the sort of values that reinforced the Sultan’s legitimacy. They are certainly decorative, but that decorative luxury alone came at a great cost and really meant you were in business back in the 13th century… ; )


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