Khatt Foundation Logo - Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès

The Khatt Foundation, Center for Arabic Typography is a cultural foundation and design research center dedicated to advancing design and typography in the Middle East, North Africa and their diaspora, and to building cross-cultural creative networks.


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What we do: design research, design residencies, experimental projects, cross-cultural networks, collaboration, knowledge exchange, knowledge production, social engagement, public space, agency, methodology, workshops, conferences, exhibitions, tools, books, publications, products, objects, words, texts, languages, letters, type, heritage, visual culture, innovation.


Inner Structures – Outer Rhythms:
Contemporary Arab and Iranian Graphic Design.

Inner Structures-Outer Rhythms: Contemporary Arab & Persian Graphic Design, an exhibition that reflects the growing interest in graphic expression from under-recognized creative regions of the world. The college is partnering with Dr. Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès, founding director of the Khatt Foundation, Center for Arabic Typography (Amsterdam), to curate the exhibition and to publish a book of the same title. 

Central to a more inclusive global design discourse is recognizing the power of graphic design and typography to communicate social change, local cultural concerns, and universal human and environmental challenges. “The diversity of graphic expression in Arab and Persian graphic design is linked by the creative use of the Arabic letterforms in an ever evolving and playful manner,” Dr. AbiFarès explains. “Developments in Arabic typography of the twenty-first century have been marked by a division between fluid calligraphic designs and structured geometric compositions. Sometimes the two mix in intricate and unexpected ways, revealing complex and engaging rhythms.”

The exhibition and related publication focuses on Arab and Persian contemporary design and highlights the works of a select group of thirty of the best contemporary designers from the Middle East/North African (MENA) region and its diaspora. It charts certain trends that reflect the specificities of Islamic visual culture, local aesthetic trends and contemporary design applications that respond to current events and socio-political concerns. The exhibition will feature posters, videos, textiles, graffiti, books, fonts, and typefaces and is divided into four broad themes:  Visualizing rhythm in poetry and music; Type and lettering for political activism; Designing for culture and the arts; and Beyond Arabic calligraphy. It will also include a viewing/reading library with dozens of informative publications on design from the MENA region.

Inner Structures-Outer Rhythms includes the works of the designers Reza Abedini, Mariem Abutaleb, Studio Kargah, Homa Delvaray, Naji ElMir, Yara Khoury Nammour, Khajag Apelian, Hussein Nasreddine, Azza Alameddine, Naïma Ben Ayed, Farah Fayyad, Wael Morcos, Kristyan Sarkis, Amir Karimian, Mohammadreza Abdolali, Studio Safar, Studio Kemistry, Turrrbo, Hamid Mirza Qorbanpour, Lara Assouad, Acil Benamara, Yusef Alahmad, Hey Porter!, Karim Farah, Ayman Hassan, Nadine Chahine, Omaima Dajani, Jana Traboulsi, Rasha Dakkak, Mark Nicolas, and Bahia Shehab.

Typographic Matchmaking in the Maghrib (2015–2017)

Filmed, directed and edited by Jan de Bruin
Producer: Khatt Foundation & Jan de Bruin
Project Curator: Huda Smitshuijzen-AbiFares

The Typographic Matchmaking in the Maghrib short documentary is part “making-of” and part conceptual impression of the project. The film documents the working process of the project, yet also contextualizes the cultural histories and realities of the North African identity and social fabric. The goals of the Typographic Matchmaking projects are to nurture cultural dialogue and help develop indigenous design skills. In its third edition entitled Typographic Matchmaking in the Maghrib, a group of European (Dutch, Spanish, French) and Arab (Lebanese, Moroccan, Tunisian) designers will research and develop tri-script font families that combine Arabic, Tifinagh and Latin scripts harmoniously.


Typographic Matchmaking in the City (2009–2011)

Typographic Matchmaking in the City 2.0
2010 (video 33min.)

Jan de Bruin Productions and the Khatt Foundation
. Shot on several locations in Amsterdam, Dubai (UAE), Sharjah (UAE), Pingjum (Friesland), and Doha (Qatar), Typographic Matchmaking in the City : the Film follows the 5 teams of Dutch and Arab designers that participated in the project over a period of 18 months while they were traveling, working together, and presenting their work in progress to culturally and professionally diverse audiences. The film makes visible not only the design process, the struggles and challenges of the designers, but also addresses the larger topics of bringing two cultures into a dialogue through design. The personalities of the designers show through their collaborative process, discussions, interactions and the final design outcomes. The film gives a very humane and personal portrait of the process of creation and creativity. Edited by Ans Kanen.

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Filmed and directed by Jan de Bruin
Editded by Ans Kanen
Music by Philipp Ernsting
Producer: Khatt Foundation & Jan de Bruin
Project Curator: Huda Smitshuijzen-AbiFares

Typographic Matchmaking in the City is a documentary about an urban typographic research project, shot on several locations in Amsterdam, Dubai (UAE), Sharjah (UAE), Pingjum (Friesland), and Doha (Qatar). 2009 – 2011.