Name, first nameMaria MahdessianYear of birth1991UniversityHKBField of Interest / research fieldDesign Research and ReflectionTitle of projectCommunication Design Strategies of Terrorist OrganizationsAbstractMy master research is related to and will hopefully be a contribution and part of the research that has been undertaken in HKB on "Advertising Terror - Corporate and Communication Design Strategies of Terrorist Organizations” that is based on the study, Branding Terror - The Logotypes and Iconography of insurgent groups and Terrorist Organizations conducted by Arthur Beifuss, a journalist and former UN counter-terrorism analyst, and Francesco Bellini, a creative director. This book, which was published in 2013, is the first comprehensive survey of the visual identity of the world’s major terrorist organizations. Each entry contains a brief but comprehensive description of the group’s ideology, leadership, modes of operation, and a brief timeline of events. The group’s branding — the symbolism, colours, and typography of its logo and flag — is analyzed in details. After some back and forth, my supervisor and head of the HKB Research Unit Communication Design, Prof. Dr. Arne Scheuermann confirmed that this research in HKB has been expanded to all violent extremism not only in the jihadism context but my master research will develop surrounding the latter (specifically ISIS) due to my high personal interest in this topic. Moreover, I still have not established the specific and more detailed questions that I will be tackling in my research.
As a first step, in order to construct and establish the questions that my research will tackle, I observed and read Dabiq magazine, which is a monthly magazine for propaganda which was found by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in 2014 and was published by Al Hayat Media Center. From this observation I conclude that there is a sense of glorifying the Caliphate and propagating intolerance and hate towards Christians specifically. For example, one article (pages 36 to 39 - issue 15) I read was written by a Finnish woman who converted to Islam and migrated to the Caliphate. In the her writing she mentions how her experience was with Christianity and then how she came across Islam. She also describes how her life in the Caliphate makes her happy even though her son was martyred. I also read an interview (pages 64 to 69 - issue 15) with an ex-Christian from Trinidad and Tobago, who converted to Islam. In this he explains how he found some flaws in Christianity, how he converted to Islam and how he had a calling to Jihad. He also tells his journey to the Caliphate and what role he plays today in it.
During Design with Social Impact class discussions with my professor, and peers, I realized I was more leaning towards analyzing the visual images, their representation and symbolism through photographs used in online magazines, and how these visual images (photographs) communicate meaning, as opposed to aural, verbal, or other messages. Therefore having the potential research question: “What are the visual Rhetorics of the photographs used in ISIS’s communication design strategies?” Accordingly, as a second step, I read the case study - The Visual Rhetoric of IS Islamic State - an Editorial Design Case Study of the IS Magazine) that was reported by Prof. Dr. Arne Scheuermann and Arthur Beifuss, in order to verify whether they have already done this research. In this case study, they discover and analyze the visual rhetoric of the magazine and place it within the overall IS media mix by comparing it to the IS media strategy, and by using the method of rhetorical design analysis. The focus of this case study is more on the editorial design, therefore, the photographs used in this online magazine were discussed very briefly and not in details. But I still cannot confirm that such research has not been done yet. So, I still need to read more case studies and more research in order to see what has been done already; Therefore, my next step will be to work with literature review. Once I have a greater overview of what has been and has not been done already, then I will be able to decide which medium I will target - only then I will be able to define the corpus of my research - and maybe adjust my research question: Will it be Dabiq images (or other IS magazines in comparison to other traditional newspapers such as DailyPress? TV images? Youtube videos - or compare Dabiq, which is in English, to IS’s Arabic online magazine - in this case, I will use documentation research method in order to analyze and compare each material. Then, I will decide on which theoretical framework I will target this. Ideally I would like to use my skills in the Arabic language.
Another personal interest for research could be analyzing the visual Rhetorics of the photographs used in ISIS’s communication design strategies under the umbrella of digital marketing strategy. in order to create consistency, which contributes to organizational recognition and stability, which in its turn fuels commitment and loyalty. Moreover, this strategy not only contributes to gaining sympathizers but also convinces prospe
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