Author Archives: Ahmad Humeid

15 Years of SYNTAXing

 

Fifteen years ago SYNTAX was born. We were three partners and a couple of team members. We borrowed an empty doctor’s clinic for office space, put some Macs and PCs on cheap wooden boards supported by simple triangular legs, got a telephone line, and called ourselves a company.

Today, we still use those cheap wooden boards as tables. And in many ways we still are that “design workshop” we started out as.

But our journey of fifteen years changed us as well. Today we are a team of 25 SYNTAXers: designers, project coordinators, architects, content creators, strategists and managers (you’ve got to have some managers!), handling projects from all over the region (and sometimes beyond), designing the brands, digital experiences, spaces, and products of great companies and organizations, large and small.

Our extended family has grown as well to include Spring, our technology strategy and implementation sister company, and TootCorp, our friends who run a digital venture lab.
The road behind us was interesting and challenging. Often fun. Sometimes bumpy. Sometimes dangerous. But here we are. We survived! And on the way, we learned a lot and managed to, hopefully, deliver something useful, informative, engaging, and delightful into this world.

To celebrate 15 years of SYNTAXing, and to recognize and thank clients, partners, team members friends and family who have accompanied us on this journey, we designed SYNTAX: interface, a day of celebration, inspiration and design thinking, presented by the SYNTAX team in Amman and a group of guest designers, architects, technologists, entrepreneurs and other trouble makers.

SYNTAX: interface was held in a multi-part “open day” style on May 11, 2013 at our offices in Amman and the roof of our building.

Here’s to 15 more years to come.

SYNTAX, design and the story of a domain name

Hello. I am Ahmad Humeid, cofounder and CEO of SYNTAX. And I’d like to tell you a story.

One evening, sometime in October 1997, I was sitting in an office on the second floor of an old building in Amman’s old Jabal Al Luwiebdeh neighborhood. I was excited. I had finally decided on the name of my design business.

At the time, I was a partner in a company division which was part of a larger group that worked in magazine publishing and web media. My division did graphic design, multimedia and web design work. It was called “Arabian Media Concepts”, not exactly a name I liked. That name was a result of a strategy that positioned our little division as a kind of “media research and development” unit that experimented with a variety of media projects and concepts.

I love media and technology. And we had a great time experimenting with the web, comic books, magazine projects and building some of the first Arab corporate web sites and actually creating the first Arab web portal ever.
But, at heart, I was a designer. In the early 1990’s, while still studying architecture at the University of Jordan, I started my own small graphic design business. By 1997, After a few years of being deeply involved in a pioneering Arab publishing venture, I wanted independence again and I had an image in my mind of building and working in a design firm, not a “media concepts” firm.
A year earlier, towards the end of 1996, I had the chance to be briefly exposed to a number successful design, branding and multimedia/web companies in Germany and Austria. I even considered leaving Jordan at the time to work in Europe. A company that really captured my imagination (but didn’t hire me 🙂 was MetaDesign in Berlin, who played an important role in the design scene in Germany during the 1990s.
But here I was in Amman.
Our parent publishing group was going through some tough times and big changes.
Inspired by the companies I visited or read about in magazines or saw on the young web, I really wanted to focus on building a design company. My wife Salua Qidan and our friend Racha Tarazi where ready to be partners. Together we were three young architects ready to go independent.
I can’t remember exactly how I arrived at the name “SYNTAX”. But it felt right. It had that amazing linguistic, philosophical and technical meaning. it was not about “style” or “creative” or “cool”. It was all about building meaningful things.
So what do you do when you finally hit upon the right name for your company? Well, you register a domain name, of course. And on 22 November, 1997 that’s what I did, most probably on a Mac Quadra that sat on my desk at that old Luweibdeh office. The domain SYNTAXDESIGN.com was registered.
SYNTAX officially became a company nine month later in August 1998.
We used SYNTAX DESIGN as our name and SYNTAXDESIGN.com as our domain name for the first year of our operation.
The internet bubble came along. Driven by enthusiasm, and by venture capital money, we set up shop in New York, ready to conquer the world (wide web).
We were still designers at heart, but the opportunity was in doing “digital” work. In 1999 we registered SYNTAXDIGITAL.com and since 2000 we started using that domain as our main address on the web. At one point we even changed our logo to SYNTAXDIGITAL. But we maintained ownership of SYNTAXDESIGN too.
The internet bubble burst. September 11th 2001 happened. Our dreams of being a “global” company where put on the shelf. We retreated to Amman, focusing on Jordan and regional market.
I think that around 2002, we started thinking of ourselves as simply “SYNTAX”. But the SYNTAXDIGITAL name kept lingering on. For a long while I convinced myself that “DIGITAL” was simply a way to say that our website was the “digital home” of SYNTAX.
Looking back, I have to admit that this was a branding mistake. And it’s a pretty lame mistake for a branding company to make too. We always insist on naming clarity when working with startups and even large corporations. But we couldn’t get ourselves to take the same medicine we prescribed.
Then, a few years ago, something even worse happened. An administrative mistake caused us to lose our original SYNTAXDESIGN.com domain name. It was scooped up by a domain name trader. My anxious emails to the guy (in Japan!) brought no results. We were being asked for a very high price to get our domain name back.
SYNTAX is, in three words, a design company. We really needed that domain name back! And we obviously kept watching the situation. SYNTAXDESIGN.com started pointing to a Japanese domain sales site. It was probably for sale, but we had given up on the issue.
We lived with this reality for years and we have suffered from it, not only on a branding level, but also on a technical level as some of our company’s accounts with various online services where registered using email addresses on the SYNTAXDESIGN.com domain.
It was bad.
But our luck started changing around a week ago.
I checked the domain again and noticed that it was for sale by a domain brokerage that spoke English.
AHA!
Our web wizard Ibrahim Owais submitted a bid that we agreed to keep reasonably low, and to see what happens.
To our surprise, the bid was accepted. We couldn’t believe our luck!
The days-long process of transferring the domain name to our ownership started. We were nervous that something would go wrong and kept following up on a daily basis.
Then, yesterday morning, the great news arrived. SYNTAXDESIGN.com was ours again.
And as of yesterday afternoon, it takes you the the SYNTAX site.
It’s back to the future! Design is our DNA. SYNTAXDESIGN.com is our domain.
In the coming weeks we will transfer our emails to our new/old domain name and we will get our own house in order, branding-wise.
The door of the carpenter shall be broken no more.

Starting 2012 with a raid on the bookstore!

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Books. In paper form, their days are increasingly looking numbered. And I have found myself hesitating before buying books in the past few years. They are not cheap. Especially design book. But more importantly, I find myself accumulating books that go partially or completely unread. There is so much to read for free on the web. The iPad has even invaded bathroom and bedtime reading. Then there is eBooks. Paper books are clearly on the retreat. Why buy paper books.

But, a 50% off sign on a bookstore is hard to resist!

As I was leaving Amman’s Baraka Mall with my wife and eldest son (after watching the new Sherlock Holmes movie) that 50% sign drew us into the Prime bookstore like a magnet.

What started as a small pile of books quickly turned into a full scale book buying binge. I decided that the first business decision of 2012 for SYNTAX would be an upgrade of our office library which recently has been getting pretty dated.

Now mind you. Prime books seems to be closing down or something like that. They obviously want to sell their stock and the shelves certainly look like they are not being restocked. And from what I saw, no book was more recent than 2009. But at 50% off, it was just too hard to resist to keep on piling on one title after the other.

It’s actually sad that the glory days of Prime Megastore are over. When they opened in Mecca Mall, it was, for me, one of the best things that ever happened in Amman. I covered its opening in one of my early blog posts in 2004 on 360east.com.

In any case, as our work takes on in increasingly architectural nature, designing cultural/art spaces, workspaces and corporate interiors, I though it would be cool to add a heavy dose of architectural books to the mix.

And I finally got that huge Le Corbusier book!

A good start of 2012, don’t you think?

Books 2012

Books 2012

What does it mean to be a Project Coordinator at SYNTAX?

Design management is as important as design itself. Innovation doesn’t just come from creative crazies 🙂 Client management is more than paper pushing. Keeping us on time and on budget is as important to our success as our design and technical skills.

We’re looking for people who are passionate about design and communication as tools to change the world. If you’re happy about how the world functions today, you’d better not apply!

We want to fill several project senior and junior coordination posts at SYNTAX. It’s a job that combines client management, creative consulting, research, proposal writing and problem solving.

It all happens in a respectful, creative and multicultural work environment, working with startups, corporate clients and cultural organizations. If you think this kind of challenge is for you, we’d love to hear from you.

[email protected]

Wamda: connecting entrepreneurs, pushing our limits

Hair Replacement Systems Australia,Toupee Australia and Hairpiece for Men

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

https://www.niawigs.com/

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