Monday, 31 October 2011


It's a shame (3aib) when a college of design (and other majors including English) produces such booklet to showcase their portfolio, facilities, courses and programmes.

Lets go through it before I start talking in details. It took me almost 3 weeks to blog this specific booklet out of my chest. Every time I sit infront of my laptop trying to put my river of thoughts into words; my hands shiver, smoke comes out of ears and my face turns into a red balloon filled with anger and frustration ready to explode! Maybe because it isn't only about this booklet, but its the whole experience, from landing a foot on the college grounds to running back to my car. The experience also has to do with the college's dean who asked me - when I went to apply for a job as a Typography teacher - he asked "What do you mean by Typography?" (!!!)  I felt like a bucket of cold water got poured over my head. I instantly thought to my self "Is this really where I want to work?"

For those who think.. Oh common, not everyone knows what Typography is, I totally understand if you're anything but a design college dean!

Lets showcase the bilingual college representative AKA booklet.

Arabic font is 16 throughout. Talk about little copy big fonts to fill up pages. Not just that.. Look at the design, layout and font. Overall, heart breaking, really! 

The two splats used behind the Arabic titles (Mission and Vision) are brushes set by default on Photoshop & Illustrator. So, basically no effort put into this. The whole booklet is designed in no longer than 1.14 hrs. I would say that, because there is a chart somewhere inside. Otherwise, a total of 53mins is more than enough.

Paper choice? What other than the cliché Matte Art paper that everyone uses even Salsabeel water flyers. Its the standard paper in Oman and the cheapest. Why does a design college go for the "default settings"? Shouldn't they stand out? Show their skills? Blind us with their overwhelming creativity? oh! and not to forget the cliché glossy covers.

See, this all wouldn't bother me for a second if it was designed for any company out there, but what ticks me off here is that this is a "design" college. There must be at least one teacher assigned to supervise the whole project and outcome. 
You know, I wont even be surprised if this was executed by some guy at the printers. Pay 20 rials extra and voila! Done in a jiffy. No soul, no life, no warmth into the booklet thats supposed to welcome many potential designers out there.

Oh! Just before moving along.. Note that the english side of this booklet has different information than the Arabic side. Confusing? Yes. On the English side "the mission and vision" pages don't exist. You jump straight into the programmes or is it programs or wait! it also could be programe!! According to this fascinating booklet (yes! I'm being sarcastic) there are many ways to spell the word and to impress everyone, they couldn't make up their minds, so, they just left it for you -the reader- to decide! 

Did I also mention there is no dean's welcome message? not that its important, right?!

Just count with me; how many different ways of spellings the word "programme" are there?
American, British, French???
Talk about the English course they provide, huh?! useful much?
Students work at the back of the booklet.

Alright.. So, the far left ad created by some graphic design student says "The best juice you can TEST." Do you mean taste? Ok, so obviously the student made a mistake, fair enough. But the question is, with this mistake, is it the best piece of work to feature in the booklet? If the design teachers english isn't so good, where's the proof reader? Didn't they acknowledge the fact that this mistake could jeopardies their marketing strategy (if they had one) or reputation?

Lets not talk about the fonts chosen, because as we've already established, typography is not in the Graphic Design major curriculum because it's only the MOST important design element (sarcastic, again!)

Lets have a look at the bottom ad here. It's by a student created for ROP (Royal Oman Police). It says "Don't cut it unless it's green"Ok i get it. Don't GO unless the traffic light is green, but why apples? (I'm getting into concepts now) just because apples were created in 3 different colours that match traffic lights, it doesn't mean I can use them for this purpose. 
Why can't I can't cut the apple when it's red? why not when its yellow? why only green?! It tastes good when its red. It also tastes good when its yellow! 
See, its just not related. The only connection is colour. Effective? No. Creative? No. Convincing? No. Concept? Zero.

I can go on about this 8 pages booklet for hours. However, I'll end it here for my health sake to start with!
Secondly, I would like to advise parents out there to check what you're paying for. If you have no background in design, it is ok, ask around, get opinions, compare college booklets, but don't let these colleges rip you off, because honestly they are not giving your children back the proper international education standard/quality you're paying/hoping for. 

I, personally, have worked with many graduates from this college and another, it has been a struggle. They don't know the basics of design such as kerning, leading, image resolution, difference between RGB and CMYK... etc. I DO NOT BLAME THEM, but for whoever is responsible, I say "3aib".

With design, SF.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

AMBIENT... Welcome to Oman!


Putting my 'ambient advertising' hat on for a change. We don't see much of ambients in the GCC as much as we do overseas, maybe 'cause we have alot of restrictions or maybe 'cause Arabs don't interact as much. People are not exposed to such things, and are a bit hesitant to go and ask or be part of, but nevertheless, this ambient idea kicks ends!

So, What's Ambient advertising? Ambient advertising slowly started making itself known towards the late 90's. It refers to all advertising that is out of home and non-tradtional - it is exciting, fun, targeted and engaging. 

Alright, moving along.. This ad is for General's New Super Cooling (Super Wave/Super Power/ Super Quiet)
5 speed control
30% improved powerful airflow
15m Long-reach airflow.

(Excuse the quality of the pictures.. I only have those two crappy ones. I got caught by security. No pictures are allowed to be taken inside the mall - MCC)

So anyway. At the main foyer area of the mall there is this huge transparent tent (10m long) that has an air conditioner at the end of it. As you can see, there are those coloured ribbons hanging from the tents ceiling. The long-reach airflow reaches all the ribbons across the 10m, which makes them move/flow.

So it's a really simple concept. You basically go in, feel the breeze, the power and the quietness, then just leave. You can stand as far as 9m away from the A/C. You don't have to go all the way in unless you want to see the A/C upclose.

The most important thing in the tent is the ribbons part. Without those ribbons you can't really tell how strong General air conditioner air-flow is compared to other brands. 

I like the colours of the ribbons. They stand out and you can clearly see the motion from far away since the tent is transparent and the back is white x white.

I asked the promoter, if this has been working well for them,
- Yes! we are selling. People come to me and ask what's it all about, but unfortunately, they don't go inside the tent for the experience. They just let their kids run back and forth not knowing the concept behind this whole thing.
= So it says on the leaflet that the airflow reaches 15m, but your tent here is only 10m long. Why?
- Well, it was hard getting a permission from MCC in the first place to put up a tent here. So we are happy with the 10m space we got. Something is better than nothing :)
= I love the concept. Is this done locally?
- Oh yes! A company called Imagine Technologies owned by Warith Al Kharusi, they came up with the idea and executed it for us. We are surprised ourselves that such idea came from a local company! 
= For how long will the tent be here?
- Until the 18th of Sept.

That's all from my side. I'm happy to see ambient taking place in Muscat. Things are taking time, going extremely slow, but they'll get there eventually. (Inshallah)

See! the security man is coming towards me! ahhhh,
 but the tent is right behind the kids there. Can you spot that transparent thing?

With design, SF.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Arabic Laziness!


Went to Carrefour the other day for some grocery shopping. Found this roll-up banner on the way out.
Not bad. The msg is clear. The design is simple. The font is....... WHAT?!

Ok guys, I gave you credits for the design, clarity, legibility, and concept overall, but why isn't the Arabic font matching the English?
The English and Arabic copy are acting as a unit, which is great! Shouldn't the English and the Arabic fonts be the same in design since they both convey the same msg?

The English font is fantastic! You used some handwriting font on a post it, BRILLIANT and makes complete sense, but couldn't you copy the same for Arabic? It's easy to do on Illustrator; outlines the selected font, then start drawing those 1/4 hatches!

Nothing else to say. Obviously the main design concept was executed in English then the Arabic translation was added to it. "Call us we'll answer" is another example at the bottom of this same banner! The Arabic is just a passive font. Not as friendly and inviting as the english active font.

Bottom line, DETAILS MATTER.

With design, SF.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011


Salam and Happy Eid to all,

Right! So, went Eid shopping with my sister and entered a shop called Jeans West
She started trying on some jeans, while I was seated on the chair besides the changing room handling her different sizes, and so, I noticed this...

While the door was locked, she had her Denim Off

And while the door was unlocked; she had her Denim on, so it was fine to open the door.

Now seriously, how cool is this idea?! I absolutely LOVE IT! Although the production was cheap; it was printed on some home A4 paper and Impact was the font used, but who cares right now!? I'm fascinated by the idea and the way it was delivered; simple, clear, creative. 

Sometimes you don't need all the extra graphics and bits. Using your guideline's colours with some simple smart copy, makes a great attention grabbing design. 

Enough said. This made my day. I'm happy!

With design, SF.

Monday, 1 August 2011

"Just to provoke"

Hello all,

The whole mall is on sale. Isn't that wonderful news?! I can look for something new. Something new like SALE signs, window displays, ads, danglers... whatever! :D

Terranova is an Italian brand gone international for Clothing and shoe fashion. They have branches in London and France to name a couple.

Terranova is owned by some Lebanese in Oman. They've decided that this is the best way to go about their shop sale display design. According to what he said, they know exactly how to promote themselves.
Fair enough. Hands down. Now lets see what they did.

As you can see in the pic above. The owner was staring at me wondering why the hell was I taking pics. Then he approached me and asked, EXCUSE ME. WHY?!
- I criticize ads
= From what magazine are you?
- No magazine. I do this for my personal blog.
= Website?!
- Yes. website! Your window display is intriguing! 
= *chin up, very proud* Yes I did that on purpose. 
- but you're telling people not to enter!
= YES! I want to provoke people! 
- *confused face*  Aha! and did it work for ya? did it attract more customers? (knowing that the shop has always been empty with or without the sale sign!)
= *hesitant* Yes. Doing well. Yes.

Obviously not. The shop looks like its closing down soon. No one's buying anything that's why he's waiting outside.. Forget about buying. No one is IN the store to start with... errmmm, maybe coz the ad said DO NOT ENTER??

Ok YES! it is provocative.. That worked. It stopped me to take pics, but WTH man? Seriously, you should invite people in. Maybe  put sample of the clothes in the window? maybe UP TO 70% without the do not enter? 

Bottom line.. Just pay a few bucks for a proper ad, people!

With design, SF.

Layout over all:  1/5
Colours: 2.5/5
Font: Legible but old fashioned 3/5
Concept: 1/5 
Execution: 0.5/5

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Now available in Arabic but in English!


Ok... Lets look at this then start analyzing

I'm speechless.

This so called "ad" has been done in an hour, ermm maybe less - to be fair ya3ni.
Do you see a concept?? Done done and over done with the phone msg trying to tell the reader something.

But the funny part is that this ad has been running in an English newspaper while the message is targeting Arabic readers. "our mobile banking services are now in Arabic".. Hmm?? I'm not saying that Arabic readers can't read English, but if they can read English why would they be applying for this service?

Design wise. No comment about the red swashes and jumping out text with black shadow.

BankMuscat *buzzer*, your new HQ is quality and so should be your advertising!

Layout over all:  1/5
Colours: 1.25/5
Font: Legible 2/5
Concept: (Is there one?) 
Execution: 1/5 (for applying the guidelines only)

With design, SF.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

R.E.S.P.E.C.T for this ad.

Here's a nice simple one!


This screams out youtube as soon as you see it... ermm.. that's if you're familiar with the logo ofcourse. 
And if you get it, then you are Omantel's target in this ad.
Since its an Omantel ad + youtube then = this definately has something to do with speed or fast broadband connection.
There you go, I've done the math without reading anything so far, which means this megacom works in seconds.

For those who didn't get the ad. You might get the other ad in the campaign that mimics the Google logo.
I don't have a picture of that. Will try to find it and upload it.

Found it!!.... look at this  

Now I'm not too sure if this has been done before. I think it has been, I just don't have anything to prove it. So, for now, this wins. 
Simple, creative, straight to the point are the key words we should always look for in an ad.

Remember, creativity doesnt have to be complicated. 

Layout over all:  5/5
Colours: Youtube colours = can't touch it. 5/5
Font: Legible 4.5/5
Concept: 5/5 
Execution: 5/5

With design, SF.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

This is not an ad.

Right.. back on.

Attached below is an official document that I got from ministry of Manpower here in SULTANATE of Oman.

I'm embarrassed for them. And I'm also embarrassed as an Omani to see this huge spelling mistake on some official government document. This gets sent out to everyone not only locals. 

I didn't know that a document as small as this should to get proof read first!

No further comment your honor. I rest my case!

With design, SF.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Where's the cover image?!

Window displays are a reflection. A reflection of the shop. What the shop has to offer at that season. 
Its the same with us as humans, what we wear on the day reflects our mood. 

Window displays are a teasers to ur way inside. They either grab your attention at a glimpse and drive you into the store or fail to do so. You're the judge.

Usually, for that specific reason, the shop HQ would release a window display design and distribute to all its branches around the world. To synchronize all, and to deliver the same message at the sametime. So, for example Zara windows in Oman should match Zara windows in London. Oh! but thats only if its the same collection. Say, when its winter in Oman, its Summer in Australia, therefore the display wont be identical. Got it? :)

Now after that introduction of mine, lets have a look at the image attached below.

tape-à-l'oeil which means flashy or high profile sells fashion from ages 0 to 14.

Looking at the window display which is a representation of a magazine cover, looks great and I like it. It does stop you coz there's a concept behind it and it just looks different from any other display in the mall.

However, I'm wondering, shouldn't a magazine cover have mannequins in the empty space or some sort of image to reflect what's inside? hmm?
In the real world, that would be the case; cover image + headlines. Now, that would make perfect sense! But this case is different. Its just a transparent blurry sticker!

Since the headlines read "T-shirt for 2.500 RO", "Fashion from new born to 14 years", and "All the looks for summer 2011", shouldn't there be a kid mannequin representing that?

All I see now is the previous season display in the background on the pink platform and a pointless magazine cover. It's basically just there to be there! does that make sense? Let me put it in simple words, it's a frame without a picture!

Seems like the people who work there didn't even understand what/why/how they glued that on the window.
Seriously, the magazine has to have an image, something the titles link to. This is just .... !! NOTHING. No meaning, no point.

There you go, good concept gone to waste! or shall i say good concept incomplete. Flashy? Yes, but meaningless.

Oh and btw, I don't mind the tilt. Its ok. It gives some playful character to the shop.

I took this off their website. This is how it should be.

With design, SF.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Striking layout!

I like! I like! I like! Look at this piece of art.

Was waiting for my fries to fry in the kitchen, while I was going through Times of Oman newspaper. And look what I found or shall I say, it found me! Seriously! it just jumped out and caught my attention. I saw this striking layout. I feel like hugging whoever designed this page in perticular. Look at it !! isn't it beautiful? Compared to the page next to it? Its just clean, elegant with fantastic use of space. It barely looks like a newspaper article!

Finally a great use of white space and a smartly-put layout. Thumbs up!

I like how the models shadow is overlapping the green block, which means breaking the guidelines, which means taking a risk for a change and doing something different. I like how the text is nicely rendered around the models curves. I like the balance of the whole page. Balance doesn't mean symmetrical, right = left, but its visually balanced - image and copy-wise.

See! there are good layouts in the Omani newspaper. There are things that strike. This is an excellent example of how to deal with minimal copy on plain oversized canvas. You don't have to maximize your font size to 16 point to fill in the page. You don't have to enlarge the image until you see those pimples in the models face and her mustache! You basically don't have to cram it.
This is it! Simple. This solution looks perfect, modern, classy yet very attractive.

One tiny little thought though. I know that they made the models shadow black or 85% of it to read the white copy, BUT reducing it to 65% might look not as much dominating. Dropping the whole shadow idea might make it even look better.

Oh! i just noticed the quotation marks are green. That matches the top bar. Oooh! and the justified copy has no widows meaning no one single word on a single line. Ahhh. I'm in l.o.v.e!!

Layout over all:  4.5/5
Colours: N/A
Font: Legible 4.5/5
Concept: N/A
Execution: N/A

With design, SF.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Frog legs!

Alright. Just to let everyone know that I dont look for bad ads to critisize them, but I also look for the good ones to give them some credit. However, the bad ones seem to stand out a bit more than any others. Maybe coz they're just BAD.

This is an ad for Hayyak (prepaid phone credit) from Omantel. To be promoted during the Muscat Festival 2011.

Lets start with the goods. Love the simplicity of the msg and font. I like how they put a hint of the festival at the back, no clutter, clear blue sky no clouds and a well styled up model. Festival = youth = jeans and jumper that match the climate at this time.

Moving along.. Now as soon as I saw this ad, my direct attention was to the frog legs! Isn't his jump weird?! I'm sure they took several shots prior to "frog legs" stage. Aren't there any better ones like the ones below? Something with more of a happy, dance, side shot jump? Something more attractive with closed legs?!!

"Look her in the eye. Tell her that you love her." Making good eye contact reflects self confidence and provides direction, authority and meaning to your conversation or msg. Models eye contact is a must in such ads to convince the reader. It gives honesty and sincerity to the msg. 

Now to closer details in bullet points.

No eye contact. Some unattractive facial expression 
and something hitting his face. Maybe he was hurt.

Some technical stuff seem to be going wrong here. 
Is he supposed to be holding the board?

So not attractive for an ad. Wear a faneela (vest) or ahhhh.. just not right man. 
Shave? Blur on photoshop?

Layout over all:  4/5
Colours: Boring 3/5 Not greatly festive.
Font: Legible 4.5/5
Concept: 3/5 
Execution: 2.5/5

With design, SF.