Author Archives: Ahmad Humeid

Wamda: connecting entrepreneurs, pushing our limits

201009271544

Today, SYNTAX got the green light to announce the release of the public beta of Wamda, the entrepreneurial mega hub that has kept us buy for the last 7 months. This project not only has the potential to transform the entrepreneurial scene of the region, but it has already transformed SYNTAX.

I have just posted my initial thoughts on building Wamda (for our clients at Abraaj Capital and Riyada Enterprise Development) in a rather long blog post at 360east.com.

A decade ago, a project like Wamda would have been probably conceived as the Arabic Fast Company or Inc magazine. But being born today, in the age of social networking and the real-time web, Wamda is more than a magazine, and it is wider than a website. The Wamda team at Abraaj, Riyada and SYNTAX has scoured the web for every regional entrepreneurial spark. As the Wamda.com hub launches it will aggregate hundreds of feeds from blogs, Twitter, company sites and mainstream media outlets, bringing together some of the best minds of the region into one vibrant conversation.

In building Wamda we have taken creative risks. We asked ourselves, how do we create a web interface at a time where the web is bringing together text, images, video, audio and that is increasingly reflecting the real-time life of people, companies and organizations.

Driven by the client’s mandate to innovate, we threw out the manual of conventional web design. Navigation, content display, layout, sharing, authoring and connecting on Wamda have all been reinvented. In doing so, we expect some user bewilderment borne out of unfamiliarity. But then, nothing great has ever been achieved by only sticking to the rules. A website is a living being that can change and mutate. We expect a lot of feedback from Wamda’s users which we will work back into the product to create a more refined experience.

The building of Wamda has also brought together our various disciplines at SYNTAX and Spring in an unprecedented manner. Beside the strategy, branding, user interface design and technology skills we usually bring to the table, our team has also developed the Wamda’s content strategy, researched the sources of potential stories, coordinated the actions of various content and production partners and produced massive amounts of content in-house. Our work on Wamda will usher in a new era at SYNTAX where we transition from a design-led to design and content led innovation firm. It’s an exciting time for us.

Read the entire post on 360east.

Advice for brand new designers, from an ex-SYNTAXer

Ex-SYNTAXer and pioneering blogger Roba Assi shares here experience on being initiated in the tricky world of design. Want a real-world, passionate and engaged advice on how to start your design career? Roba gives it away..

Our first few months (or years) on the job are always a little shocking. We discover how the client is always right, even if he or she has no idea what the hell they’re talking about. We come to terms with the fact that design is almost never creative; in fact, creativity is practically frowned upon. We realize that the bulk of what we our jobs entail is detailing and finalization.

I am very lucky that I started out my career in SYNTAX, the best design environment in Jordan. Lina — an amazing designer and one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever known — practically adopted me.

Let me share with you what I learned in my first few years as a design professional, in hopes that it will help you in your first few years as one too.

Read the full post on andfaraway

SYNTAX & Al-Balad Theater Present: Yanone and the new (type)face of Amman

The new typface of Amman

SYNTAX and Al-Balad Theater present:

“The New (Type)face of Amman”

German type-design rising star Yanone will be telling the story of his Amman typeface, created for the Amman Municipality’s “Amman Brand” project in collaboration with SYNTAX.

The result of this project is now FF Amman, marketed worldwide by FontShop, as one of largest bilingual font families ever.

Amman is probably the first Arab city to get its own typeface. The Amman typeface is now starting to appear all around Amman, on signs, posters and ads. It will become one of the city’s recognizable visual features.

If you’re a designer, design student, design and art lover or a Amman enthusiast, we’d love you to join us for an interesting presentation and discussion. Yanone will also preview the 15-minute film he has shot during his current visit to our city.

27 July, 2010
7-9 pm
Al-Balad Theater, Jabal Amman. You can find a map to Al Balad Theater here.

Facebook page of this event is here.

Sparking entrepreneurship: Wamda is “coming soon”!

Wamda entrepreneurship hub coming soon

Today, we get to lift the curtain, just a little bit, and start the launch process for one of the most interesting and challenging project we’ve ever worked on at SYNTAX. Together with our friends at Spring, we’ve been commissioned to build what hopefully will become the region’s most comprehensive, dynamic and interactive entrepreneurial hub. So today we can tell you: its name is Wamda and the “coming soon” page and cool little trailer is up.
The teams at SYNTAX and Spring, along with an army of freelancers and partner companies are still hard at work. The next step will be going into a private beta test phase, where a limited number of user will be allowed in to help iron out any issues.

If you want to be notified when Wamda officially goes live, head over for www.wamda.com and submit your email. If you want to participate as a private beta tester you can submit a request too.

Wamda means “spark” in Arabic. And lot of bright sparks have already gone into this project. You can already join the Wamda community and add your own sparks by connecting with the Wamda team on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube (where you’ll find some more teasers 🙂

That’s it for now and stay tuned for more updates..

SYNTAX and Spring design and develop new release of Aramram TV

Aramram TV

One of the coolest Arab media projects out there these days is Aramram, a web-TV project based in Amman. The Aramram team is redefining what local socially and culturally engaged TV means, with a progressive editorial line and a fresh/edgy visual brand of video communication. It’s everything mainstream TV is not!

Over the past year, Aramram has produced a dazzling array of video portraits, reports and shows that cover a wide range of issues and put Jordan’s diversity on full display. Interaction with the “channel” also has evolved with more viewers posting comments and embedding videos in blog and websites.

For the past weeks our team at SYNTAX and and our friends at Spring have been working closely with the Aramram team on releasing an upgraded new version of Aramram, focusing on improved usability and navigation and a tidying up of the site’s presentation, while keeping Aramram’s unique visual style.

Videos are now more easily accessible and findable. Content is cross posted under various classifications, enabling users to discover more of Aramram’s videos.

Check it out on Aramram.com
Project team

SYNTAX: Ibrahim Owais, Aseel Haddad.
Spring: Khalil Majadalwi, Sana Bataineh

What do SYNTAX designers do in their free time? Amazing calligraphy, of course!

Hussein Azaat Calligraphy at Landmark Hotel Amman

The man in the picture is none other than SYNTAX senior designer Hussein Azaat. During the work day, he is busy creating websites, iPhone app design, logos and print communication for SYNTAX’s clients. But when night falls, out comes his alter ego. Hussein the Calligrapher.

Recently Hussein came into the office with a bunch of amazing photos of a series of murals he calligraphed for Amman’s Landmark Hotel. He standing in front of one of them in the photo above.

The texts depicted are odes to Amman, done in Hussein’s distinct calligraphic style.

More photos here.

SYNTAX: 12 years of producing junk (and some good design :-)

SYNTAX design junk
Behold: 12 years of junk.

We founded SYNTAX in 1998. The year the first iMac (and my first son) was born. We’ve been in our Wadi Saqra office since 2000. A decade already.

When we moved in, we barely had the money to put in partitions. We always said, we’re too busy with client work to finish the interior design of our office. And what do you know? Ten yeas pass just like that and we’re still talking about ‘doing something about the office’.

But recently, something else has been happening. I would ask our admin people and the rest team to ‘tidy up’ ten times, but stuff would just be laying around here or there.

On one hand, we’ve been happy with lots of stuff hanging on our walls. But my feeling. recently, was: we’re drowning in junk.

I had enough.

Even before finding a storage place, I gave orders to start aggressively moving junk out of the office. The ‘finding storage space’ problem which has been on our to do list for 5 months, suddenly solved itself.

As old Macs, PCs, posters, files, papers, boxes, and plastic bags started moving our of the office and as I started removing yellowing posters from my walls, I felt that it was not just the physical junk that was weighing us down, but also the mental junk of running a small business for the last 12 yeas.

For those of us who have been around for a long time, mental junk has been increasingly occupying too much of our our brains. Too many experiences. Too many old stories. Loose ends. Persistent issues. Too many layers of ideas around every issue.

Some of it might be called ‘wisdom’. But a lot of it is just junk.

Like physical junk, you get used to living with your mental junk. You come to the office in the morning. You see the same old posters and printouts behind your desk. You go through the same mental cycle.

There is also another form of ‘junking’ that apparently happens to small businesses. I find it amazing that there are some things that we used to do in a neater way in the early days than we do now. Our fax form looked better in 1998 than today. Hmmm.

A company of 3 people is very different than a company of 25, of course. We can do more. We have more depth. Bigger clients. But that’s no excuse for carrying our junk with us.

We’re still too busy to do a full revamp of our office. But spring is here. Time for a physical and mental spring cleaning. Out with the junk.

Restartup.

[email protected]: brand strategists, interactive architects, designers, project coordinators

Here’s the situation:

SYNTAX:

..is an innovative, open and respectful (sometimes hectic) environment.
We speak design, innovation, research, writing, technology, photography, architecture, strategy, web, mobile, Arabic, English and a bit of German too..
We work with little startups, big corporations, government initiatives, cities, art institutions, international organizations..
We create brands, websites, mobile apps, magazines, books, environments, signs, total experiences..
We are biased towards originality, learning, home-grown solutions, the power of technology, public experiences, critical thinking, optimistic outlook

You are:

A brand strategist who loves to research, think, write, present. You understand brand values, positioning, tone of voice and differentiators.

or

A designer who works across print, web, screens, paper, 2D, 3D, large, small. You are a communicator, a typo-freak, an illustrator, an information designer, an experience maker.

or

An interface/interactive architect who sketches, structures, prototypes, htmls, explains, and tests large scale web and mobile applications. You are not afraid of technical requirement documents. You are a users best friend (and sometimes a programmer’s worst nightmare).

or

A project coordinator who is nice enough to be liked by the team and clients but strict enough to be feared by them (sometimes). Organized. Get it done kind of personality.

You could have 10 years of experience or none..

You could be short or tall..

Your favorite food could be pasta or falafel..

And here’s the deal:

You work with the team.. we give you the money!
(ok there’s more to it, like health insurance, social security, mental stimulation, and a nice bunch of people to work with)

And here’s the email address:

careers{at}syntaxdigital.com

SYNTAX awarded ‘Website of the Year’ prize at the Jordan Web Awards for Amman’s Centennial website

Amman-Centen-Website

After being absent from the Jordan Web Awards for a couple of years, SYNTAX (and its sister web technology company Spring) was back for the 2009 awards. The ballroom of the Grand Hayat Hotel in Amman was jam-packed with web companies, reflecting the rapid development of the sector over past decade. The atmosphere was celebratory as every company table cheered for its entries (although not as loudly/crazily as ad agencies do in their own award nights 🙂

The highlight of the evening for SYNTAX was winning of the Website of the Year Award for the work we did for Amman’s Centennial celebrations in 2009. This win was particularly significant for us. A lot of effort was put into building this site last year. Amman’s Centennial website not only presents an engaging story of Amman’s development during the past century but it also served as the main web hub for the city’s various cultural and official celebrations in 2009. Integrating social web features, the site enables visitors to upload their own personal memories about Amman, emphasizing that Amman’s story is the story of its people.

SYNTAX not only developed the site’s strategy, information architecture and interface design, but also supplied the site’s original content, covering Amman’s city history and the institutional history of the Greater Amman Municipality. Spring developed the site’s content management solution and all of its social web features.

In 2008 and 2009, SYNTAX was heavily involved in the creation of the Amman Brand, the Jordanian capital’s first large scale effort aimed at consolidating and celebrating its emerging urban identity. Celebrating Amman’s story of human diversity, openness and sense of possibility was an integral aspect of the brand’s development. Using an interactive website to tell the Amman story and to engage its citizens represented a true embodiment of the brand’s values and experience.

The SYNTAX and Spring alliance also went home with seven gold and four silver awards, covering a wide range of industry categories and confirming the two companies’ leading role in the web strategy, design and technology scene in Jordan and the Arab region.

Here is what we won:

SYNTAX and Spring alliance (for combined design and development work)

GOLD: Amman Centennial Website [Events]
GOLD: Sunny 105.1 [Radio Stations]
GOLD: Jordan Professional Communities [Professional Societies & Associations]
GOLD Tariq Harb [ Personal Websites]
GOLD Jordan Business Systems [Information Technology]
SILVER: Makan Art House [Art & Design]
SILVER: Chronicles of a Refugee [Non Governmental Organizations]
SILVER: Hygex [Corporate]

Spring

GOLD Aramram [Media & Press]
GOLD Folowen [Blogs, Forums & Online Communities]

It was a fun, bountiful night for SYNTAX and Spring, which would not have been possible without the hard work of all the people of both companies and the trust of our clients.

Engaging brands tell good stories: Eddie Taylor joins SYNTAX as Chief Communication Strategist

With a new year there’s a new SYNTAXer.

We’re delighted to welcome aboard Eddie Taylor who, starting 01.01.2010, has become SYNTAX’s Chief Communications Strategist, or Word Guru if you prefer his unofficial title.

Most of us at SYNTAX already knew Eddie through our collaboration with him on The Explorer magazine which we produce for Aramex. But some of us, myself included, have known Eddie long before. I even attempted to get Eddie to become a SYNTAXer when he moved to Jordan three years ago, but his mind was set on revolutionizing Jordan’s magazine industry back then!

Now that he’s successfully done with his magazine revolution, he will be transforming the communication and content strategies of our SYNTAX clients.

Eddie’s communication experience was honed over a decade of work in magazine and contract publishing in London and New York where he developed media products and publications for a wide range of consumer and corporate brands including the Chelsea Football Club, the Mail on Sunday, BAFTA (the British Oscars) and Royal Jordanian.

His writing for Royal Jordanian’s Royal Wings inflight magazine introduced him to Jordan and the region. He moved to Amman in 2006 and launched Near East Media’s pioneering NOX men’s monthly, Torque, a monthly car magazine as well as the high-end lifestyle title The Aviator for Arab Wings airline.

Communication is at the heart of what SYNTAX does. Creative content development is key to creating engaging experiences and breakthrough brands. We have a passion for books, magazines, newspapers and content-rich websites. We love editorial design. I want to quote MetaDesign, one of my favorite design companies who, in their early days, where an inspiration to me to start SYNTAX. They used to say: “we design from the word up”. For us at SYNTAX, this isn’t just about type and typography. This is about the written word and the thought behind it as foundations of what we do as team.

This is the start of transforming our communication/editorial/content discipline to a powerful proposition, applicable across commercial, cultural and governmental projects.

We look forward to working with Eddie and hope for a long, fruitful and inspiring collaboration.