Yousef Omar is a well respected professor of Arabic language and culture with a long career of teaching Arabic studies at SOAS in London. He was becoming more and more frustrated with the out-dated methods of teaching Arabic until one day in late 2016 he reached breaking point. He broke away from the recognised Arabic teaching world and decided to cut his own path. Yousef wanted to create a new way of learning Arabic language and culture. A new approach where people learned by sharing in a group rather than being taught in isolation. A new style of education centre where students were encouraged to learn together in a group about Arabic languages, dialects, cultures, foods, drinks, smells, tastes, sounds etc. There would be courses designed for students who wanted to learn Arabic language and culture for the first time, intermediate and advanced learning levels, teacher training, professional training, translation and sub-title services, as well as a café where people can learn about and experience all of the rich flavours and exotic smells of the Arabic world.
Yousef came to us with just the bare bones of an idea. Our first task was to help him choose a name for his new venture. During the brand workshop with Yousef and his team the main topic of conversation was focused on the challenge of finding a new way of ‘sharing’ Arabic language and culture. Sharing was the key word of the workshop and with the help of Google Translate we discovered that the verb ‘to share’ translates into ‘sharek’.
The brand is all about people of all ages, gender, race, religion, beliefs and backgrounds coming together to share knowledge and experiences. To learn and grow together as a group. The key to success of this new way of learning is interaction and open dialogue between everyone. We created a new brand identity that took this basic concept of dialogue and brought it to life with the use of speech marks icons. The icons are used to construct the logo and then abstracted to create the visual language for the brand.
The new brand identity is made up of a small selection of different assets that includes the speech mark icons, Helvetica Neue Arabic font, colours inspired by Arabic mosaic tiles, hand-sketched illustrations and candid photos of people interacting as a group. We wanted to give the brand a very young, fun and approachable look and feel as some Arabic language schools in the UK appear to be older, more serious and not always open to new ideas.
Yousef needed the new brand identity completed as soon as possible so it could be applied to a new website holding page and business cards for a key meeting with his primary investor. The meeting went well and he received the right amount of funding to continue building the brand. We then designed and crafted the full website (inspired by the functionality of Tumblr) with a bespoke bookings platform that we hand-built with one of our Wordpress developers.
The next step was to create a marketing content and activation plan for advertising and social. The first marketing campaign was just focused on visualising the simple concept of sharing with just a basic call to action, website address and logo (with a translation of the word Sharek). Nothing complicated, just keeping it simple. Most language school ads need a qualification to understand as they usually end up giving the viewer every possible piece of information about every possible course and timetable. We did the opposite. The ads were placed inside the tube network with Exterion Media, TFL, taxis, street posters, and in print and online with The Guardian and The London Evening Standard. We also created a series of flyers and leaflets. The sole purpose of the initial ad campaign was to just raise awareness of the new Sharek brand in and around London.
Our next challenge was to find new ways of sharing the brand with people who didn’t have time to sit down and read the website in great detail. We created six animated short films that were posted on the website and social media, each film brought to life a different aspect of the brand.
The project is still very much a work in progress. Yousef is currently in the process of moving to the new custom-designed Sharek Centre in central London (just around the corner from SOAS).