THE SPAIN-NORTH AFRICA PROJECT
Logo for The Spain-North Africa Project, an international group of scholars of the Mediterranean region. In Progress.
SNAP’s mission is to facilitate collaborative contact between a growing number of academics. It’s premise is to treat Spain and North Africa as a single region, focusing on a “vital kind of unity” that persists in spite of perceived religious, political and cultural divisions. The nature of the project is fluid - both of people across borders and a fluidity of thought regarding the region's historical and contemporary meanings.
The logo addresses the movement and unity that the organization highlights in their scholarly pursuits and also explores in their working model of collaboration. SNAP membership includes people working in different countries, different languages, studying different timeframes and different contexts. SNAP is scalar as an organization, taking in new members and circumstances without being prescriptive. It is our hope that the logo can perform this way as well.
Accordingly, early discussions centered on SNAP’s role in the world and questioned the role of a logo. Logos have responsibilities to be legible, adaptable to various contexts, and evocative. We looked at many precedents: logos as icons, as words, as combination marks. We questioned a logo’s role as symbol, preferring instead to think of logo as metaphor. Taking inspiration from film director, Andrei Tarkovsky, we aimed for a logo as “the image itself.” Instead of a graphic simile signifying something else, we have aimed for imagery that communicates directly.
Other texts that became touch-points throughout the design process were: SNAP publications (namely “Unity and Disunity Across the Straight of Gibraltar”); Andrei Tarkovsky’s films and interviews; graphic artist Paul Rand’s logo designs; The New Penguin Atlas of Medieval History (for an understanding of movements of people and influence in the region); Anna Munster’s “An Aesthesia of Networks”; geometric patterns of Islamic art and cartography; and Karen Pinto’s “Passion and Conflict: Medieval Islamic Views of the West” (illustrating that vantage point inscribes power and changes historical understanding). These have formed our canon.
With these texts in mind the design process went into parallel. Logo as geography? Logo as map-making? Logo as script? Logo as material culture? The explorations began to describe the bounds of a shared understanding. Ultimately, the most compelling direction was one that combined two understandings of place: the area of study and the locations of SNAP scholars.
Metaphors can be understood as a figure/ground, which is a common tool for studying architecture in its environment. So too can SNAP’s mission be understood as the overlay of a collaborative membership over the region of Spain and North Africa. Both the membership and the region are unstable: they change over time, in parallel. They grow, they shrink, and our understanding of them together, SNAP’s boundaries and our history, changes with each scholarly publication. Seen together they are anachronistic, juxtaposed out of time.
The project may be understood as an oscillating figure/ground where a dual reading is present in any moment. On one hand, SNAP’s membership is the ground for the study of the region’s vital history. On the other, the region is the ground for the operations of SNAP’s membership.
By foregrounding the process of metaphor-making instead of the application of a symbol, it is our intent that the SNAP logo may be continuously in flux, an unfulfilled document that gains richness over time. As the relations between members change, as the region expands (to include Sicily for example) or contracts, so too does the logo's form. While the inputs may change, the juxtaposition between the network of scholars and a regional network of study does not. It is this ongoing complexity at the heart of SNAP that we have chosen to emphasize.
The final images are of the design as it stands in various contexts: for instance on a book cover and tote bag (reflecting a desire for SNAP swag). This is still in-progress, but we have received enthusiastic feedback that should enable us to complete this project soon.