Designing Type for the Burj

With the increasing economic development of the Middle East, type design for the region may become a prosperous business. If Sakkal and Chahine are indicative, Arabic lettering will once again become a flourishing art.

Check out the following wonderful experts from the article titled “Designing the Font for the Tallest Building in the Worldby Steven Heller. Read the article in it’s entirety at the the Atlantic.

Arabic type design was barely on Westerners’ radar only a dozen years ago. Now, “we are definitely seeing an unprecedented level of interest in Arabic type design,” Chahine said. “This is on par with the increased level of design sophistication and the sheer energy that seems to be flowing in this field. These are very exciting times to be an Arabic type designer, and we are lucky that the font technology has developed to a level that gives us so much freedom in design.”

Designing Arabic typefaces, of course, comes with its own particular set of challenges. Chahine said designers must choose which broad “structural reference” to handwritten script to follow, Kufi (squarish) or Naskh (more rounded). The task, she said, is to navigate “how much distance is tolerable between typographic interpretations and the pen movements they reference. It is almost like we have an elastic band that ties the letter forms to hand-written ones. We can either go very close in design, and then there is no tension at all, or we go far and the farther you go away the more tension there is. There comes a point where one goes too far, and the band snaps.”

“I believe that those who develop typefaces that are completely disconnected from conventions, or at odds with these conventions, most often waste their time and efforts because users usually discard such work over time,” he said. “Having an intimate knowledge of Arabic calligraphy and its long history makes my typefaces more natural and less pretentious. Although I am a firm believer in the need for artistic innovation, I think that in type design intended for general use, this should be balanced with the needs for legibility and unobtrusive originality, both of which are intimately related to historical precedence and collective experience with the written language over many centuries.”