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Stand up for quadrilaterals!

Fri, June 22, 2018 13:16

By Simon Willis

Squares are boring and smug. They sit on the paper and believe themselves to be a cut above other two-dimensional figures. Just because they have four right angles and four equal sides does not entitle them to swagger about like American Express, Lego and… ugh!...Microsoft with their self-satisfied straight-lined selves.

As for the last-mentioned, the four coloured squares encapsulate the mission statement of that firm: square pegs in round holes. In other words, while they hold a monopoly on software we have to adapt our lives to suit the demands of clunky software products.

Until that monopoly is smashed, thus opening wider choices of product and satisfying the customer for once, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse will be galloping over the Mokattam Hills, so we have to grin and bear it, just as Mr Gates has to grin and bear his earnings.

Rectangles are squares that are trying to be friendly, but they do not succeed. There are exceptions which include the logo for German Railways. The underlying message is safe, well-get-you-there without ripping you off. The BBC logo is also a rectangle, as are those of Ikea and Facebook. Otherwise, rectangles, you’re tedious and you should leave the room and leave us and irregular quadrilaterals in peace.

These four-sided figures are bits of geometry that mean fun. You can fit an irregular quadrilateral any way you wish inside a circle. Squares always end up with the intersection of their diagonals coinciding with the centre of a given circle. How original! How very uninspiring! Rectangles have their limitations, which cuts no ice with shapes made up of loci, such as our round and oval friends.

A logo with a quadrilateral says, ‘Look at me! I’m unusual but I appeal to your need to bust out of safe regularity now and again.’ If a square comes up to the bar, you ignore it. Let it buy its tap water masquerading as the mineral variety.

You wish it will hurry up and go. A rectangle friend might join it and exchange a few words about being straight and the virtues of ninety degrees. However, they are forced to turn around and watch Mr or Mrs Quad come in with their unequal sides and angles. They are ready to take on the world, spit in your eye, and order a scotch on the rocks with a spot of blackcurrant juice.

Yet, according to a report by Egyptian Streets (13 June), not everyone is happy with the newly released logo for the Grand Egyptian Museum. You see, the logo features a yellow quadrilateral.

The logo, released on Sunday under the auspices of the Minister of Antiquities and the Minister of Tourism, came under fire since critics “are angry at the graphic designers for not preserving and doing the Egyptian identity and history justice”.

Meanwhile, what puzzles me is that the design comes from abroad. Tarek Atrissi Design, a Netherlands-based graphic design studio specialising in branding, was commissioned to “develop the core branding of the new Egyptology centre in collaboration with Atelier Brückner, a German company”.

Surely, with all the artistic talent and awareness of our ancient cultural heritage, someone local could have been entrusted with the task of “branding” the Grand Egyptian Museum. Hold it there a moment. Branding.

Products and services carry a brand – something instantly recognizable that bears the mission statement it its very font and spacing. Does this mean that the Grand Egyptian Museum is merely a product? Does it offer an experience that can be captured on a thousand selfies by artefacts that visitors do not understand or want to? A quadrilateral is for life; not just for the next tourism fair in, say, Amsterdam.

The shape of the new museum building and its surrounding environment are said to be the inspiration for the logo design. Among the proposals by Atelier Brückner were designs with traditional Pharaonic icons such as amulets and pyramids, which tends towards cliché.

“However the committee chose an abstract form, supposedly to conform to marketing trends attempting to engage younger generations,” Egyptian Streets said. This means that an institution has to be promoted like cooking oil or crisps. Note also that there is an overriding need to “engage with younger generations”, despite the fact that youngsters are not interested and that elders’ efforts to “engage” them are largely ignored.

According to Tarek Tawfik, General Supervisor of the museum, the logo, “reflects the unique footprint of the Grand Egyptian Museum complex in an orange colour, conveying the warmth of the evening sun which imparts this colour to the sandy landscape before settling in the west behind the museum”. Fair comment.

“The Arabic script is intended to evoke images of the sandy dunes and peaks of Egypt whilst the simplicity of the design is on par with famous international museums such as the Louvre, the British Museum and the Metropolitan,” Mr Tawfik added.

If you really want to market the GEM, devise a computer game, involving mythical creatures revealing themselves from behind sarcophagi and blasting them as you make your way through the galleries. Score extra points by attempting to read notices telling you what you are looking at. Lose marks for laughing at the misspellings and dodgy grammar.

You could make salty quadrilateral-shaped crackers – as eaten by Tut Ankh Amoun during school break. A set of quadrilaterals could be put together to make a 3D model of the museum; pharaonic Lego, with working models of ramps to raise blocks of stone to construct pyramids.

No, no, seriously, though, I like the new logo. It’s fresh, direct and memorable, without condescension. Well done you people in the Netherlands.