Throughout this year, design studio TEMPLO has been working on a trilingual identity for #StopTorture, a campaign from the International Truth and Justice Project which aims to raise awareness of human rights abuses in Sri Lanka. The politically neutral system combines a vibrant colour palette with English, Sinhalese and Tamil characters…
Sri Lanka’s brutal civil war ended in 2009 after three decades of conflict, but in a report published in March this year, the Truth and Justice Project claims that rape, sexual violence and torture has increased in the country in the past five years.
Led by Yasmin Sooka of the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales and based on harrowing witness testimonies, it describes “widespread and systematic violations by the Sri Lankan security forces” against LTTE (Tamil Tiger) suspects and their associates in a manner which indicates “a co-ordinated, systematic plan approved by the highest levels of government”.
To raise awareness of this issue in the west, the Truth and Justice Project launched #StopTorture in June this year and asked TEMPLO to devise a politically neutral identity for both on and offline communications.
The studio created a trilingual system based around two typographic logos – the first combines the Tamil and English characters for ‘Stop’:
And the second combines English and Sinhalese:
Logos are used together on campaign imagery and TEMPLO says the dual branding aims to create a sense of ‘balance from both perspectives’, while giving a voice to both ethnic groups.
“We needed Sri Lankans inside and outside of Sri Lanka to understand that their plight was being shared with the wider world,” says Templo founder and creative director Pali Palavathanan. “We also didn’t want to alienate the very people we were trying to give voice to,” he adds.
Designing the logos was a complex process, explains Palavathanan, as both symbols had to be visually similar while ensuring characters were clearly legible for native speakers of each language.
“We had to start with matching the Tamil and Sinhala letterforms, [which was] tricky as they are constructed in completely different ways. Tamil is much more geometric and angular compared to the more script-based Sinhala,” he says. “Once this was achieved, we could extend the lines and curves to their English counterpart. We then tested this with native Tamil and Sinhala speakers to test legibility.”
TEMPLO also had to avoid using colours or symbols associated with political groups: “We had to avoid using deep reds, yellows and tigers to ensure we didn’t reference either Tamil Tiger flags or hard lined Sinhalese nationalists,” says Palavathanan. The resulting scheme features a bold red and purple, which Palavathanan says is designed to “stand out from the crowd” while capturing the vibrancy of Sri Lanka.
The identity has so far been applied to the campaign’s website, the report and imagery for social media and #StopTorture events. The studio also designed a website, white-flags.org, which commemorates the fifth anniversary of the day when 143 Tamils surrended and disappeared. The site features an animation of disappearing white flags alongside a timeline of events, imagery and eyewitness testimonies of the incident.
Creating an identity for such a politically charged campaign, and which addresses such disturbing subject matter, is a daunting task – as Palavathanan points out, “the design had to be incredibly sensitive to the content, which often described horrific and unimaginable events. It also needed to stand out and have impact.”
“This was one of the most challenging projects we have ever worked on,” he adds. “We had to protect the identities of translators, barristers, journalists who contributed as the Sri Lankan government are known for their intimidation tactics and hostile treatment of those that question their authority – for this, reason many who were involved could not be credited. We also asked ourselves if we should put our names to the work,” he says.
The finished system combines Sri Lankan script with clear infographics and bold sans type to sensitively yet clearly relay some shocking statistics in reports and communications, as well as providing a distinctive and immediately recognisable logo.
The campaign will run until June 2015, and has so far gained support from Desmond Tutu, US Ambassador Catherine Russel and Woman’s Hour broadcaster Jenni Murray, as well as celebrities M.I.A, Cara Delevingne and Bianca Jagger. Former foreign secretary William Hague also vowed to review the policy of deporting Tamils back to Sri Lanka after attending a #StopTorture event this summer.
Website build: Made By Cloud
Animation: Martin Shannon
Filming: Scott Carthy