Islamic Arts Biennale Branding

Year: 2023. Country: Saudi Arabia



Tarek Atrissi Design was given the incredible honor of being commissioned to design the visual identity & exhibition’s main graphics for the first-ever Islamic Arts Biennale that took place in Jeddah, Saudia Arabia. The inaugural edition was entitled “Awwal Bait” and consisted of a contemporary show about lived traditions in different contexts and geographies. It was organized by the “Diriyah Biennale Foundation” and was open to the public at the historical repurposed Western Hajj Terminal in Jeddah.


A long design process working with the curators of the biennale resulted in a typographic wordmark that focused on the graphic evolvement of Arabic Calligraphy as the key element of the design. The lettering style for Awwal Bait represented the journey of the Arabic script as a visual expression that traveled across the world & returned to Jeddah: evolving from classic sacred Arabic calligraphy to graphic lettering styles found in the streets and as part of the cultural typographic daily landscape that constitute an important archive of a parallel modernity of the Arabic script’s visual identity.


The minimalist lettering style used for the words “Awwal Bait” is influenced by the thick and thin contrast of the calligraphic pen stroke yet is expressed in an abstract and highly graphic character: taking inspiration from the underrepresented expressions of the script found in packaging, posters & book covers in Saudi Arabia, & adapting it into the design of the typographic logo in ways not typically done within an “Islamic visual identity” context.


The Arabic lettering style used in the logo became the core element of the visual identity, and crops on the details of the typography were the basis for creating any composition needed for every graphic purpose.



The typography used in the logo was developed into a custom Arabic typeface used in the exhibition graphics, for all titles of the different key sections, galleries, & pavilions. The typeface reflected the minimal lettering style used in the logo, and allowed the team of the biennale to create a consistent typographic voice that was used across the marketing and social media communication promoting the event across the period of the Biennale.


In Addition to developing the visual identity, Tarek Atrissi Design worked together with architecture firm OMA in Rotterdam (Office for Metropolitan Architecture) to design all the 2D and exhibition graphics of the Biennale, ranging from the large section titles to the small exhibition labels of the displayed artwork and installations. This included the design of all Quranic verses used across the space; as well as all graphics needed for the scenography of the various exhibitions and pavilions.


The various images from the Biennale, shown on this page, showcase the seamless consistency of the branding through the typography and design across diverse mediums- from printed works to posters, large exhibition graphics, and various promotional material.


Our team at Tarek Atrissi Design remains incredibly proud to be part of the design of this historic moment in the legacy of Islamic art.
Our design approach took on the responsibility of translating the rich tapestry of Islamic art and culture into a contemporary visual identity that breaks with the traditional way Islamic heritage has been represented: infusing modernity with tradition and creating an iconic visual language that resonates with the essence of Islamic heritage


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