Alix-Rose Cowie

Khatt Foundation on CasimirTV

The Past Meets the Future in Arabic Design and Typography Today

01_Massira - Massira font in 3 variations from top to bottom: Regular, Ballpoint, and Spray. Left wall with posters (designed by Dries Wiewauters & Hester Keijser) using the Massira font for an art exhibition entitled 'this is not a live song', at The Empty Quarter gallery in Dubai, in 2010. Pascal Zoghbi : 29Letters : WWW.29LT.COM, hester keijser

"In the early 1990s, Huda Smitshuijzen-AbiFares was met with a difficult design brief in her hometown of Beirut. After years of civil war, a downtown area of the city was being rebuilt and she was asked to consult on Arabic typography for new signage. The challenge of finding digital Arabic fonts for the job set into motion a new trajectory for her career; one which saw her set up the Khatt Foundation in 2004 as a platform for research and critical discussion on design and typography from the Arab/Islamic regions.

In 2010 Smitshuijzen-AbiFares established small publishing house Khatt Books which continues this educational mission. She says, “We need more publications on Arabic design in order to develop a sound and mature design education in the region, one based on comparative studies between local and international design trends and developments.”

Currently based in Amsterdam, her life and work as a designer and researcher has since been between Europe and the Arab world, only confirming her conviction of the need for cultural and practical exchange between eastern and western cultures, “I believe in promoting dialogue and mutual learning, using design as a tool for cultural diplomacy.”

We spoke with her about what we can learn about civilisations through their design history, and the current state of Arab design affairs."

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