Advertisers agonise over the Kalashnikov rebrand


The chap in the middle appears to have succeeded in cramming an entire stag into his rucksack. Intimidating fellows, these Russkies.

My response to the Kalashnikov rebrand was a curmudgeonly ‘Why mess with a classic?’ which doesn’t make for much of blog post. Fortunately, other people have had far more interesting thoughts on the subject, so I’m just going to borrow theirs.

In particular, Creative Review has a long thread in which advertsing professionals answer the question ‘Would you take the job?’

No, god knows what would happen to you if the solution was not to their liking…

– jeffrey

Definitely not. In my view weapons, if we have to have them should only be controlled by democratic, responsible governments (idealistic I know) and not treated as a commercial products that require branding. Having said that I do like that Kalashnikov logo!

– Mark

I would have loved to work on this project. In the end it’s really no different that rebranding a pharmaceutical company or a new prescription drug. Those companies play with the lives of people every day and yet we look at them as “good guys” and a company such as Kalashnikov as the “bad guys.” AK-47’s are used as peace-keeping weapons in the same way as a new drug is used to help save a life. Sure, the guns that are produced can be used to harm people but drugs can also be misused in ways that end up harmful.

More to the weapon-specific issue, is it OK to rebrand Remington but not Kalashnikov? Should we not invest any design resources into our military operations and recruiting? Where do these imaginary boundaries lie? The weapons that are produced can be beautiful and artistic. I would proudly display an AK-47 on my wall as an art piece because it is an amazing piece of work. I’m not going to limit myself or my design choices based on what someone CAN do with a product. In the end, these companies aren’t in the business of killing people. They are in the business of creating firearms used for multiple purposes and that distinction cannot be overlooked.

– Edward

A rebrand feels a little bit of a waste of time. Who are they carrying out the rebrand for? Who do they really think is going to fall for the “Weapons of Peace” slogan, when the companies top selling product is, along with the Toyota pick up, the freedom fighters, terrorist and oppressive regimes go to weapon.

For every advert featuring a couple of models seductively enticing punters with there latest firearm there is a 24hour news channel showing men with beards shooting in the air over some bloody conflict.

The problem I would find with working with the Kalashnikov Group is not an ethical one regarding their guns, But an ethical one regarding their clients.

– Stephen

I think the issue of ethics/responsibility in design is somewhat trite.

I’ve seen some great designers talk on this subject & similar (e.g AGI Open Barcelona 2011) and always feel disconnected from the lecture. Maybe it’s an issue which becomes more significant as you progress in your career, but for the most part the people who lead the discourse on such issues as ethics and social responsibility in design are established designers who have the luxury of picking & choosing their clients, not struggling recent graduates in the height of a recession. It will be awhile before the rest of us catch up & start chasing that white pencil…

– John D
We’re not talking a poster campaign for a sugary cola drink. These are guns, they are a tool for killing people. The rebrand is to help the company that sells guns (that kill people) to sell more guns (to kill more people). Regardless of whether they are sold to legitimate state forces (police/army etc) or to gun dealers for resale. They are guns. They are designed for one purpose.

If you think having a part in enabling that intent to become a reality is neither an ethical choice you can afford not to make or no different from working with a large pharmaceutical company, then I’m honestly shocked. If you do a good job, more people die.

Whilst you are both free to hold these options – and please don’t think I am simply picking a single sentence from your comments for ease of making my argument – I really hope you are both, playing devil’s advocate and don’t actually believe that.

– Bob would walk away

It would be repellent for me to be involved with such a project. But it does open up a whole can of worms. For example, everyone holds up the inventors and designers of say the Spitfire, the Hurricane, the bouncing bomb, the Lanchester etc. All were made as machines of destruction but they are remembered with warm nostalgia? What about the many ridiculously violent games that are designed and packaged for the ever growing gaming industry who’s products that fall into the hands of very young impressionable children? I think we need to look and think more deeply, at what we are helping to promote as designers, we are part of a chain of events that we sometimes close our eyes too.

– Mike Dempsey

The ‘Great British Designs’ stamps series, designed by a well respected studio included a Spitfire, what is your opinion on this? Should it have been left off?

The Kalashnikov has been involved in many ‘freedom’ movements and has helped fight against slavery and racism in what for many people was the only way possible. To people in a less privileged position to you it can be used as an important symbol of a way to make a better life for someone and their family, it is used a symbol of pride on the Mozambique flag for instance. It is involved in situations outside of your comprehension and has different values all over the world which as a designer you should strive to understand. Yes, it has been used in ways you would feel uncomfortable about, because of this you may not want work on the project, this is fair enough, but do not disregard the question or debate, because things exist outside your value system they are not wrong.

– James

To take the 380k or not to. Someone will.

How many of you have worked on stuff for oil companies, fag packs etc. Where’s the line drawn? If it’s with a firearm then it’s with a firearm.

Everyone has a drawer of shame somewhere.

I don’t think doing this branding job is helping people kill people, whatever that mark those guns are still killing machines.

– Joe

You’d get better market share if you branded bullets instead. ‘Course it’d be 50/50 whether or not the audience would be alive enough to engage with the brand and tweet accordingly.

– Ed

For me the most disappointing part is that I know – with an almost religious certainty – that some worryingly intense Japanese salaryman has already done all this work. He has 800 beautifully rendered Pixlr images of D-cup jailbait with Kalashnikovs (and in every one it is clearly the hardware that has received 95% the artistic attention), but the Japanese internet is a pig to search and so I can’t find it, all I’ve succeeded in doing is making my search history look like that of someone due to be sectioned.


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