Arabic lectures and workshops in March

Linotype is on tour again! Here are the dates and relevants info:
New York
TDC talk: Engaging with the Middle East, Tarek Atrissi will also give a talk about Arabic Typography, March 15 at 18:30. The event will be livecast online and you can get your tickets for the webcast here.
TDC Workshop: Introduction to Arabic Type Design, March 16-17. Spaces still available so sign up before they’re out.
Nuqat talk on March 19: Designing for Tomorrow
Nuqat workshop with Tarek Atrissi on March 20-22: Arabic Lettering and Type Design
I’m in Dubai till March 28 so if you want to meet up just let me know! I have some meetings and private workshops planned, but there are some open slots open.
Abu Dhabi
Abu Dabi Bookfair Design Panel chaired by Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès, March 29 at 16:00
New York University Abu Dhabi: Lecture and workshop, April 1

3 #Arabic fonts for #free

A gift to you this November: We are giving out 3 Arabic typefaces for free during the month of November! We announced this last week over twitter and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. If you haven’t downloaded the fonts yet, just do it now. Time flies and December will be here before you know it!

You can get the fonts here. We hope you enjoy this gift!

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Tweet for better Arabic typography online

There are practically no references at all for anything to do with Arabic Web Fonts. So, I’ve spent my day in a long tweetathon about anything related to the topic. Here are some of my tweets put together:

#ArabicWebFonts Browser support: All current versions of major browsers are ok on both Mac and PC except Opera on Mac OS

So, all ok on desktop browsers, but not ok on the iPhone or iPad

Even more techy info: Chrome and Safari will display discretionary ligatures (dlig OT feature), Firefox not.

Supported formats are WOFF and raw TrueType

Availability: @Fontscom Linotype, Monotype, 92 fonts; @MyFonts (by several foundries) 39 fonts; WebINK Paratype 18 ; @typotheque 4; @typekit & Google none at all

#ArabicWebFonts = use non-system Arabic fonts on the web = brand consistency, text that is scalable, selectable, editable, and printable

#ArabicWebFonts = freedom from a handful of poorly designed Arabic system fonts that make any website look bad

Readability: for text, go for typefaces with open counters and wide spacing.

Ready to use: Palatino Sans Arabic (friendly, informal, great for young audience)

Ready to use: Karim (calligraphic, elegant, traditional, bookish)

Ready to use: Mitra (lively Naskh, energetic, youngish looking, very nicely drawn)

Ready to use: Badiya (modern Naskh, low contrast, steady and grounded)

Ready to use: Frutiger Arabic (friendly, professional, short runs of text)

Ready to use: Neue Helvetica Arabic (Neutral, professional, short runs of text)

Ready to use: Univers Next Arabic (Neutral, professional, short runs of text)

Ready to use: Neo Sans Arabic (modern, hip, short runs of text)

If you follow the #ArabicWebFonts you’ll find a bit more information concerning questions that people had sent in. For now, I hope this has been helpful!

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FEX rules

When we first released FontExplorer X in 2005, the fan mail came pouring in… My favorite was a certain lady wanting FEX to be the father of her child. This is probably the only customer that FEX has disappointed. I read this today and thought to share. If you don’t have time to read through it, this should sum it up nicely:

“FEX is stable, fast, intuitive, and actually works as advertised. After about an hour of use, I began to think “this is nice, but at some point today this thing is going to do something to tick me off.” FEX never did.”

Photo and caption from

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Happy birthday Linotype!

On this day a hundred and twenty five years ago, Ottmar Mergenthaler demonstrated for the first time the Linotype machine at the New York Tribune in New York. The world would not be the same afterward. Not because of the machine itself, but due to the great speed with which newspapers and books could then be set. The Linotype machine brought about a new age in fast information exchange that was hitherto impossible. That is the legacy of the Linotype machine, at least to my mind. It’s not the matrices and hot metal that has long been melted for scrap, but the books, newspapers, and simply, the knowledge that has been transferred through it. It was a vessel rather than a destination. It’s impact on our world is undeniable.

For us type lovers, there is another great legacy. The success of the machine enabled the company to invest in typography and high quality typefaces, whether directly or through its subsidiaries or acquisitions. These are a treasure that we all hold very dear.

If you’re interested in the story, and don’t feel like poring through lots of history books, you can read Doug Wilson’s article in Codex magazine, check out our Line of Type book by Alessio Leonardi and Jan Middendorp, or simply wait for Linotype: The Film. We’re all very excited for the movie to come out!

Designing a Black

Today I finally finished the blackest Black typeface that I have ever worked on, and what a relief!! Designing the extreme weights is always the hardest. An Ultra-Light has so little meat on its bones that there’s no hiding for any extra calories. Unsightly love handles that need to be avoided at all times.

Designing a Black is not easier either. The strokes are so thick that there’s very little room to breathe. If you try to widen them apart you end up with an extended version rather than a true Black weight. And so, you push the strokes back together, reduce the counters to small bubbles of trapped air. Tension and tempers flare. Large counters are inductive for high legibility, so how can we stomach making them so small? It’s all for effect. A Black weight stands out, dominates the scenery, and drowns out all other noise. A Black typeface is not supposed to comfort you. It doesn’t care about making reading any easier for you. It’s here to yell at you.

The difficulty is in fitting all the strokes together and somehow coming up with something resembling a character… Sort of like cramming people into a busy elevator. Lots of jostling about, toe treading, and a few apologies here and there. All in all, a stressful experience. For the type designer that is. Or at least, this type designer!

The typeface family I’m working on is not finished yet so can’t show my drawings yet. And no, I am not responsible for the gorgeousness that you see above. That is all Akira’s doing. One day, I’d like to be able to draw like Akira does. But not while standing up!

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Curves made of steel

One of my favorite designers, who is also my MA teacher/PhD supervisor/Matchmaking partner/fellow Linotype designer, is Gerard Unger. There are very few designers like Gerard. Why? First there is the brilliance of his work. Second, it is the inspiration that he brings to anyone who hears him talk about type design. Then, there are his superb manners, for he is most supportive of all creative design efforts even when these efforts are very humble compared to his. I’m thinking here of my very lousy first sketches at Reading. Gerard never made fun, even when it was obvious that I had no idea what I was doing.

But it’s not just that. The curves that he draws are special. Gerard builds curves made of steel. They are molded with the strongest of twists, so full of coiled tension that you feel like they can barely be contained. And yet they are, and in perfect proportions and modulation. It takes a lot of force to tame curves like these, and yet the end result is so elegant that it completely betrays the volcano within. Look at that a. Isn’t it gorgeous? Notice the lower serif, pointing forward. Absolute genius: it is both static and dynamic, stable yet full of tension. Look at the top serif. Can’t for the life of me imagine moving it a single unit. One can draw many different serifs, but this is the perfect one for this specific typeface. Did you notice how the lower edge of top arm moves into the serif? There is this sense of inevitability. It is as if the curves were meant to be, even before they were drawn.

The reason I write this is because of another Reading graduate and good friend, Jose. He had posted a recent interview in which Gerard quotes my description as in the title here, and it suddenly occurred to me that I wished to explain more. Not because anyone asked me to, or to get brownie points for the PhD (that is going really well anyway), but because some things are meant to be shared. Swift is one of my favorite typefaces (you guessed by now, right?) and so here we go. My first rhapsody!

A bit about branding

Last Tuesday and as part of the BrandPerfect Tour I gave a talk entitled Type and Usability in New Media. I’m not going to summarize the whole talk here, but there are a few points that I thought might be interesting to share and discuss.

Connecting emotionally with a brand:

I started the talk with a quote from a BBC 3 documentary about Superbrands in which they did MRI scans of an Apple fan and they discovered that “Apple was actually stimulating the same parts of the brain as religious imagery does in people of faith.” It is no wonder that people talk about the Church of Apple. It seems to be true on more than one level! A successful brand inspires trust and devotion and to do so it needs to connect on an emotional level. It needs to be clear and authentic in its message and in the way it behaves.

Consistency in branding means consistency in typography:

Typography is the voice with which a brand speaks to its audience. It is the physical embodiment of the message: It is both the gift and the wrapping paper. Typography carries in it and should be aligned with the brand personality: feminine or masculine, formal or informal, etc… The choice of typeface has a direct consequence on the visual interpretation of a brand. Switch typefaces and you might end up with a schizo-brand.

Branding affects our senses:

Another installment of the BBC 3 Superbrands documentary looks at how we react to popular food brands. Through MRI scans they found out that “we use the same part of our brain to recognize well-known brands as we use to recognize friends and family.” When investigating how British people react to the popular Heinz Baked Beans, the researchers presented people with 2 identical samples that were branded differently and they found that people strongly favored the Heinz one. A professor in the study explained that “the samples genuinely tasted different.” We’re not as objective as we think we are, right?

A more comprehensive style guide:

It is often the case that branding guidelines look at typography in print and not on the web. To fully utilize the power of typography we need to look at both internal and external communication, as well as every instance of a brand signal, offline or online. This extends from memos and letters to banner ads, links, and navigation menus. With webfonts we are now able to have consistent typography across many platforms. With mobile the situation is a bit tricky, but we should at least plan it out from the beginning of the process rather than leave it to the last minute. Typography is a key ingredient, not an afterthought.

The talk has more about usability and type, but I leave that to another post. Enjoy the weekend!

Brand Perfect Tour kicks off in London

If you’re in London on May 25, or if you are looking for a reason for a quick visit to the UK capital, be sure to drop by to the first of Brand Perfect events. You can find all details on the event site or if you follow @brandperfect.

I will be giving a talk about type and usability in new media. Am planning a return to basics approach: what governs our perception of type*, and how does that affect the use of type in the new forms of communication today. Interested? We’ll see you in London then! If you can’t make it to London, the tour goes on to Hamburg and New York and a few other exciting cities as well…

* If you answered convention, you have a point but that’s not the main reason.

A project with a soul

A few months ago, on a cold Tuesday morning, I got an e-mail from Mario Garcia asking me if I’d like to work with him on the redesign of the An-Nahar newspaper in Lebanon. I was waiting for the bus, and if it were not for the people around, I would have started jumping up and down. (more…)