Edo Smitshuijzen

New Arabic multi-script font designs

Designing a well functioning multi-script font is an extensive and complex job. There are only very few design schools where one can be educated in the profession of type design. The longest running course is given at the Reading University in the UK. In 2001, the Type and Media course started in The Hague (The Netherlands) and in Lebanon there is a course in Arabic type design.

Cassius 2.jpg -

It looks as if designing complex multi-script fonts has become popular at Reading. This university always had a very traditional and technical approach to type design. Quite frankly, the student final project designs coming from this course were rarely interesting. And the typography of their publications was surprisingly poor. The most remarkable part of the Reading type course was the high level of their intellectual pompousness. And surely, no better place on earth than the UK to get educated in pomp. There are good reasons to believe that matters have change a bit at Reading. Certainly, their basic behaviour hasn't changed much but luckily the results of it did, providing at least some sort of justification. The course still favours a rather traditional approach to type design, but their student work is at times impressive, and certainly in the way it is presented. A very accessible overview is given on their website: www.typefacedesign.org/2008/

I do not know any type design course were so many multi-script fonts including the Arabic script are produced as at Reading. First, there was Nadine Chahine who laid the foundations there for her recently released Koufyia typeface, in 2006 Titus Nemeth designed his Nassim font, which is now part of the type collection of the Tasmeem plug-in and in 2008 the 'Cassius' typeface from Mathieu Réguer and the 'Nabil' designed by Emanuela Condi were presented as graduation projects.

Some steady members of the teaching staff at Reading made their professional career in non-Latin type design (focussing on the formal and technical aspects), which makes the interest of their students in for instance the Arabic script understandable. All these teachers (and most of their students) are Westerners who seem to share a concern that Arabic type will not be influenced too much by Latin type design. Apparently the shared professional background of these teachers has led to an astonishing combination of touchy sentimentalism and inappropriate paternalism.