My love for great branding is well documented. And I’ve seen some incredible examples here in the UAE.

So I was really excited when, Tannaz Shams, the creative strategist and founder of an agency who’s work I’m a huge admirer of, Studio Foreign, agreed to share some of her thinking behind the design of a really great brand.

What is great brand design to you?

Our understanding of design is that it is indefinable. A subjective realm that houses endless approaches, thoughts, processes, meanings, and understandings. Having said that, our perspective on brand design is that it transcends the sole visual aspect of what is typically categorized as design, surpassing simply the essential brands elements that form the brand identity, logotypes, logo marks, typography, color palette, and graphics.

Where do you start when designing a new brand?

When we begin to develop the brand and its design approach, we invariably begin at the foundation, the concept and its strategy to implement. A compelling brand is defined by its ability to communicate its purpose and its existence with the utmost clarity through the various brand touchpoints and journeys. This is done so through the presentation and experience of the product or service offering, the distinctive depiction of the visual identity, and the atmosphere that houses the interactivity.

I assume it’s a team effort. Who do you consult during the process?

For us to achieve good brand design, it includes multiple moving parts. Collaborating from the initial stage with the interior architects, product designers or in the case of F&B, the R&D chefs to ensure that the brand message, purpose, values, and personality are synonymously applied through the different channels of communication.

Please show us what you mean.

For the purpose of clearly articulating our thoughts, let’s take La Petite, Al Ain as an example.

The journey of this rebrand involved the collaboration of us as the branding studio, alongside Bone, the interior architects, and Ashley Wentling, the chef consultant, to implement the strategy and positioning we put into place for La Petite.

Source: Studio Foreign

La Petite wanted to “to reconsider the interaction of specialty coffee”. It all stemmed from understanding the consumer behaviour in the country and the city in specific.

Specialty coffee in the region creates a unique scene. You will find that they often get busy throughout the late hours of the night, when you’d expect there to be a dip in coffee drinkers as caffeine interrupts the sleep cycle. That is not the case here. The cafe scene, in specific, the specialty coffee scene can often mimic the social interactivity circling alcohol. The community gathered experience over a beverage, or the solo connection with the barista (which would be the bartender), the pairing of beverage to the appropriate edible bites.

Source: Studio Foreign

This was the key driving force behind the revival of La Petite. To create a new experience, a space that is humble and rooted in its associations, but dynamic in its expression. It provides a perpetual altering ambience from day to night, creating the slightly more elevated yet contemporary casual experience in the evening.

Source: Studio Foreign

Brand design is truly the above for us, to work from concept, from behavior, and develop tangible expressions. The key concept allowed us to then formulate the moving parts that were collectively composed together to narrate the story of La Petite.

Source: Studio Foreign

The space inspired by the natural greenery in Al Ain, the food inspired by the ambience to set in place, by the need to create familiarity in order to attain relevance but rework it to provide newness.

Source: Studio Foreign

The logotype ties in the above by featuring a less classic approach to your elevated serif. Composed of natural and imperfect characteristics that fit the earthy and more humble personality of the brand. The integration of the stronger and sharper characteristics found on the T or E that represent the complexity and confidence from the edgy and less conventional aspect of the brand. The integration of a neutral, earth-toned color palette, utilizing natural, fibrous, and recycled materials to tie into the materiality of the space. The approach for the photographic guidelines that stray away from a food centric point of communication but rather the associations with the brand, including the space, the social setting, and the implied interaction.

Source: Studio Foreign

So, brand design could be simply defined as branding?

The concise approach to brand design is that it consists of more than what is commonly defined as branding. Each segment or touchpoint must be given its respective importance of what role it plays in conveying the concept. The final result is the composition of all moving parts.

Tell us more about Studio Foreign.

We’re a studio whose origins lie within the roots of the region. Through travel and experience collected over the years, we wanted to help regional entrepreneurs, passionate creatives, and businesses with an unorthodox mindset create their homegrown brands that would leave their mark on international maps.

Our playground of concepts are lifestyle and F&B brands. To reconceptualize their purpose and building blocks in order to reinterpret their existence in the market.

Our approach focuses on three fundamental phases. Phase 1, the brand concept, its strategy, and position. Phase 2, the essential elements that form its identity. Phase 3, the means of how phase 1 and 2 come together as a tangible outcome.

Our process is heavily derived from not conforming to the pre-existing methods or forms of implementation. To develop brands that allow for unconventional behaviours and means of expression.

Where you can you be contacted?

For inquiries, you can reach our team through Our Instagram handle is @studioforeign.