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Built for eternity, rebranded for the 21st century

'This is a legacy project, something that will never come round again’. Brand and design specialist Leigh Evans talks to Andrew Gibbs about his part in the Egyptian government’s brand refresh of the Pyramids of Giza

It is the last surviving Old Wonder of the World, recognised instantly worldwide as a spectacular monument to a bygone civilisation. The Pyramids of Giza have stood majestically atop the plateau that overlooks the suburb of the Egyptian capital Cairo for 4,000 years, a major source of income as the tourist attraction to visitors from all over the world.

Yet the visitor experience is waning. The Pyramids brand is losing touch with the expectations of 21st-century tourism. It is time, the Egyptian government’s Ministry for Tourism & Antiquities has decided, for a brand refresh.

…………………………………………..

It is the year 2000 and graphic designer Leigh Evans is settling into life in the Middle East. He has been in Dubai for four years, at the start of the city’s transformation into a thriving tourist and business hotspot and is now establishing a portfolio of work for the hospitality and tourism sector. After being made redundant in the 2008 crash, three years on he is in Qatar, refreshing that country’s tourism branding.

“They had just landed the World Cup and the tourism authority wanted to start evolving their brand from a backwater and elevate themselves to the world.” The brand identity and visual language guidelines for the Qatar branding that he created still run today.

At the end of the contract, Leigh returns to the UK determined to use his portfolio success in the Middle East to establish a career at home, working on projects in London. Then his phone rang.

Leigh had become friends while in the Middle East with Ahmed Mustafa, an Egyptian who had returned to his homeland to work for leading construction company Orascom. His employers were exploring a restructure and rebrand.

Leigh, who runs his own brand, marketing and graphic design company Brave Brands in Towcester, flew to Cairo. It turned out to be a new brand strategy and identity for Orascom as Orascom Investment Holdings. There was another project alongside it. The Sound & Light Show, run by Orascom’s Pyramid Entertainment division, at the Pyramids of Giza.

“I pitched for and landed the job,” Leigh said. “It required some brand strategy, naming and then the visual look and feel and what the experience should look like for a customer. Then they said they had another project they wanted to look at, which was a bit more prestigious.”

The visitor experience at the Giza Plateau had been in decline. The complex’s custodians Orascom Pyramids Entertainment and Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities wanted to refresh and enhance the site’s facilities and services.

“The idea was to reinvigorate the site as a whole and they wanted me on the project deliverables: brand strategy, brand expression, an audit of them as a customer and definition of the positioning.”

Leigh Evans at The Pyramids of Giza.

Leigh was tasked with creating the visual element of the project. He began with an audit, assessing and comparing the Giza Plateau to other historic sites around the world; Machu Pichu in Peru, the Colosseum in Rome, Stonehenge. He looked at how the world’s leading museums treated history, taking note of how it was done at the British Museum in London and the Louvre Museum in Paris.

“They are historic places that all had elements of what we were looking at,” said Leigh. “The brand strategy and development would flow from that.”

He then assessed the product position. Their story is simple: The Pyramids were built for eternity because they were built as the place where, the ancient Egyptians believed, the Pharoahs would prepare to enter the afterlife.

Leigh’s task was to refresh the story and brand strategy to encourage and meet the expectations of 21st-century tourists. “I just treated it as a normal project but I knew how prestigious it was.

“Everybody knows what it is and it is a massive thing for the Egyptians and for Ovascom because it was the first such project ever to be given to a private entity to do. I thought that if I do not do this right, I might as well give up.

“It was quite a coup because I thought they would go for an Egyptian company to do the work. But they wanted international companies rather than Egyptian because they wanted to tap into a wider market. My bit was the clarification of the concept, if you like. I wrote the story.

“Then it was what it is going to look like and the naming. All the roadsigns said Pyramids of Giza or Giza Plateau. We plumped for Pyramids of Giza, then we needed a logo. I created concepts based around the triangles of the pyramids and then added in symbols, hieroglyphs, cartouches. I wanted to create a feel specifically for the pyramids. This is a cultural icon that everybody knows and understands.”

The Pyramids of Giza identity draws inspiration from the four icons of the plateau – the Pyramid of Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure and the Great Sphinx. By following the mathematical accuracies used by the Pyramid builders, the new identity is a contemporary stylised solution, making it an instantly recognisable marque.

The clean use of typography, contemporary and historical design elements and a colour palette inspired from ancient times all provide an appropriate level of design sophistication, Leigh explained, while allowing the complex and visitor experiences to remain the focus.

There are a total of nine structures around the site. The three pyramids form the centre piece, with three smaller Queen pyramids around the larger two. The site houses other tombs and The Great Sphinx.

“These things are huge,” said Leigh. “The locals and the Egyptians are just in awe of these massive structures.”

There is no better place to look out across the plateau than from the 9 Pyramids Lounge, a Bedouin-style tented hospitality area that overlooks the site. It hosts dining and other special events.

The lounge was the first new part of the site to open following the hiatus of the pandemic. This is the first such venue to be allowed to operate within the plateau’s boundaries and has proved a spectacular success. Now environmentally friendly electric buses transport visitors around the site, stopping at stations en route where tourists can alight to look at and learn about the historic structures.

 

The lounge includes five indoor and outdoor spaces, providing entertainment and hospitality throughout the day and by special arrangement at night, within a grand tented lounge, a relaxing outdoor majlis and three outside courtyard terraces, each with views over all nine Pyramids of Giza. 9 Pyramids Lounge is also the only place to offer exclusive event spaces at the plateau.

The 9 Pyramids Lounge identity takes its inspiration from the number 9 and the Ankh. Fusion of ancient and modern creates a versatile and striking solution, Leigh said.

Again, clean use of typography, contemporary and natural design elements and a bold colour palette all provide an appropriate level of design sophistication while allowing the venue’s location and guest experiences to remain the focus.

Following the 9 Pyramids Lounge, the King Khufu Centre – the main visitor centre – was built and is due to open this summer. Leigh is the talent behind its and the 9 Pyramids Lounge’s signage and wayfaring.

His work on the project is now complete. “This project is in no way a financial one for me. It is one of those projects that never comes round again. This is a legacy project – for me, sat in an office in Towcester, working on a project for a place 2,000 miles away and 4,000 years old is quite something.

“All I have done is write some nice words, made some pretty pictures and articulated what they wanted to do. It is then down to them to make it happen – hopefully I will get an invite to see it.”

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