Driven by a desire to make city life better for people in the UAE, Meraas is redefining the face of urban planning in the Middle East. By working across real estate, hotels, healthcare, food, technology and entertainment, it has a uniquely holistic approach to development.

In 2017, it was already having a positive impact on Dubai, having created the city’s first modern outdoor, low-rise, pedestrian-friendly areas. The problem was that not many people had heard of the company and fewer still knew what it stood for, making it hard to attract the right investors, partners and talent.

Meraas had always been modest, but with new developments in the pipeline, it was time for a stronger public voice and presence.

From developer to connector
We were invited to help, and engaged senior leadership through a series of workshops exploring possible futures. At the same time, our research revealed people craved a deeper connection to and sense of participation in local culture.  

Together, we agreed that Meraas’s purpose is to encourage an active urban life. It  invites people to take part, to shape the spaces in which they live, work and play.

With this in place, the organization could begin the shift from silent developer to consumer-facing ‘connector’, that would speak directly to its audiences.

New story, new experience
From here, we crafted the story and grounded the strategy in experience principles. We used these to design the services, internal experiences and touch points that would bring the brand to life for staff and public alike. 

We realigned the portfolio, creating a system that organised and simplified a vast number of urban developments, products and services around the needs of customers. 

The Meraas symbol, constructed from an open square frame, forms the basis of an ‘urban language’. This functional, active language aids navigation and connects Meraas developments together. Bold, simple elements are used across a range of assets from icons, patterns, and typography, to tone of voice, photography, sonic elements and physical spaces. 

Each of Meraas’s large scale ‘Neighbourhoods’ is represented by a unique symbol, providing the base for individual character within the broader family.

With ‘active urban life’ in mind, we took an unconventional approach to the launch of the brand. It began with a cryptic campaign that sparked intrigue and got people talking. Using the symbols, we formed a set of equations that all equalled Meraas, and initially gave no indication as to their meaning.

After the reveal we invited mass participation across the city, celebrating culture, creativity and community over several weeks through a set of activations and events.

More awareness, more impact
Overall, the brand has brought together disparate business units, given the company a clear, united voice, and allowed it room to grow in new sectors. It now has the confidence to talk with its stakeholders, and with the world beyond.

Weeks after launch awareness of the brand shot up by 19%, and the work attracted more visitors to the company’s destinations, with a reported 21% increase in visitor footfall. In addition to this, the work won in 5 categories at the Transform MENA Awards in Dubai, and landed the overall grand prix prize.

This is just the beginning of a multi-year strategy, and we’re thrilled to be partners on the journey.


Genesis Bejing is a public development that combines a hotel, offices, gardens and a museum by Japanese architect, Tadao Ando. It’s a new kind of urban experience in China conceived and led by our client, Dr. Whitney Duan, an academic and social policy expert.

She hopes to help repair the loss of community in Chinese society, felt since the Cultural Revolution. She wants to offer an alternative to increasing capitalism and individualism, and believes space can foster both social connection and mental wellbeing.

“It is a place for people to feed their soul, and to find meaning in life. Our project is not just about creating a functional space.”

Whitney Duan, Founder, Genesis

A philosophical brand and radical legacy
In line with this progressive conviction and innovative approach, we built a brand based on the Daoist philosophical notion of ‘wu wei’ or ‘effortless effort’. It advocates living instinctively, responding in the moment, and letting change flow. This mindset nurtures a sense of self, as well as empathy and compassion towards others.

The brand is intended to evoke this uniquely Chinese state of mind. It’s built from five patterns or ‘flow states’ that form the experience of ‘wu wei’ – play, pause, reflect, exchange, concentrate. Through collaborative effort, we created a visual tool that explores each state and associated feeling through rich, reactive pattern. We’re thrilled that the work was recognised by the D&AD panel in 2017 in two categories.

It’s hoped that Genesis Beijing will influence other cities in China, and ultimately shape the future of urban design for the better.

“With Wolff Olins, we found people who understand and share our fundamental values. There is a strong collaborative effort.”

Whitney Duan, Founder, Genesis

The committees that organise Olympic Games had for many years seen the event primarily as an opportunity to put their city on the map. London, however, was already enjoying its status as a top-tier global city and didn’t need to shout so hard.

Instead, this Games was an opportunity to do things differently. If there was to be a legacy, it had to reach beyond the event. For the Games to find this level of meaning, it would need the support of more than a logo. It would need a brand: 2012.

Olympic is for everyone
Despite their grandeur, the Games of the past had been a stage for elite athletes to perform incredible feats, watched over by a narrow audience. All very impressive, but to achieve widespread participation, 2012 had to motivate ordinary people. It had to be ‘Everyone’s Olympics’.

Beyond this, the real potential was in the values and actions the athletes’ feats could inspire in the rest of us. We needed to create a movement of people doing their best in life: ‘Everyone Olympic’.

We combined the two sides of the strategy into a single brand idea: ‘Like never before’. This captured the intent for 2012 to break the Olympic mould, while inspiring people to stretch themselves in every sense.

Inspiring a generation
It was critical that 2012 engage young people. Sport in UK schools had been falling and here was a chance to create a force that could reverse that trend. We arranged discussion groups with school children and adolescents, who told us that 2012 needed to bring the Olympics off the pedestal and onto the street.

The brand needed to express this. We developed the energy line grid from which the logo was built. It was bold, spirited and dissonant, reflecting London’s modern, urban edge. In line with the legacy objective, it carried neither sporting nor landmark images.

A brand for everyone
A major feature of the 2012 brand was its flexibility. Where past Olympic logos had been very rigid, 2012 allowed other affiliated parties to make it their own.

The logo could be populated with sporting imagery, providing a way to showcase the content of the Games, or the colours of sponsors, such as the black and white of Adidas.

The rings, tightly controlled by the IOC, were embedded within rather than outside the logo – something that had been done only once before, at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico. This meant that if an organisation didn’t have permission to use them, they could simply be dropped.

“Absolutely, the dissonance was intentional”

Ije Nwokorie, Former CEO, Wolff Olins in Co.Design

More than words
2012 had a flexible expression that could belong to everyone, but the Games needed to put ‘everyone’s’ at the core of the experience.

Until now the Paralympics had been a whispered echo of the main event. Now, on our recommendation, the two were treated as equals, with the same sponsors and their own variants of a single, shared logo. The Cultural Olympiad, separated from its sporting cousin since 1948, would also run alongside the Games.

To inspire the whole country, the Olympic torch travelled throughout the UK. In a move that became known as ‘PIF’ (People In Front), the seats closest to the action at every event were reserved for the public. Sponsors and other delegates were – unusually for occasions of this stature – seated higher up in the stands.

A Games to remember
In the summer of 2012 London delivered a breathtaking Games that, for a few heady weeks, was all-consuming. While its success can’t be credited to any one factor, it was apparent that the 2012 brand helped set a special tone and atmosphere.

The UK saw huge levels of participation. All in all, an estimated six million people got involved in events, at schools and in the streets, up and down the land. Aardman Animations, creators of Wallace & Gromit, made a film with Tate that actively engaged 35,000 children in its production.

Go logo!
The 2012 logo, so controversial at launch, twinkled from screen to arena. In line with the original post-nationalistic intention, it quite literally carried the flag of every nation in the world. It was an inclusive brand in virtually every way.

Initially so maligned, the brand stood the test. The words of the original manifesto were heard many times, as key figures reiterated that this was an event for everyone, like never before. This was demonstrated most brilliantly during the Paralympics, where old notions of ‘normal’ were cast aside.

A BBC Radio 5 live poll found that the Games inspired one in five people in the UK to go and play sport. And if there can be one lasting legacy, it will hopefully be that future events build on the idea that Olympic values are truly for everyone.

Each individual has their own New York. It’s a city loved in 138 different languages and viewed through an almost infinite mix of cultures, ideologies, and ways of life. This kaleidoscopic quality is the thing residents love, but it’s difficult to represent.

A window onto the city
We made sturdy letterforms that are thick, rugged – a little on the tough side – just like a New Yorker. The mark is durable and functions as a window. It reveals images of a range of cultures, professions, brands and activities.

A record year
The NYC brand has become a singular and strong voice for the city. It’s now used across a range of city-wide initiatives, like greenNYC, BeFitNYC and milliontreesNYC. The brand has driven tourism marketing, and comes alive in the city’s visitor centre, NYCGO.

In 2007, the year following the launch, there was a 13% increase in visitor numbers resulting in 370,000 more jobs for the city. 2008 became a record year with 47 million people visiting the city, generating $33 billion in visitor spending.