Yara Khoury Nammour, Pascal Zoghbi, Edo Smitshuijzen

Mashrebiya Font Competition Jury Report 2017

Reporting on the selected final submission of Thierry Fétiveau's font Azmar.

Mashrebyia_Azmar font_ award.jpg - Thierry Fétiveau, Edo Smitshuijzen

The jury was impressed by the apparent level of motivation of Theirry Fétiveau to deliver a very complete multi-script font. His font includes both a complete character set for the Latin as well as the Arabic script. Thierry went even as far
as developing with the help of a friend a Python script to check precisely the transparency of his design.

He provided the jury with an exact number of the level of transparency of the Latin script part of his font. This number falls within the transparency constraints. The competition rules require at least one font (Latin or Arabic) to meet the criteria and the font of Thierry qualifies in that sense. But only for the Latin part. Thierry’s design for the Arabic counterpart, however, does not meet the constraints for transparency. The Python script he developed was not used to inform the jury about the precise deviation from the transparency level of the Latin. Unfortunately, the level of transparency of the Arabic part does not qualify.

This brings us to the aspect of the design quality of his multi-script font. About this aspect the jury is far less enthusiastic. The design quality of the Latin part is not outstanding but professionally drawn. The quality of the Latin design can be improved by creating a more consistent set of characters; especially the accented characters and the punctuation marks. In addition, it should have a small set of alternate characters to avoid that ascenders and descenders collide.

The design quality of the Arabic part of the font is regrettably substandard. The jury has given Thierry detailed suggestions after the first phase of the competition on how to improve the Arabic character set of his typeface. For reasons the jury cannot understand all these instructions were not implemented. Thierry has applied a Naskh structure for the Arabic script, though the jury warned him in advance that this version of the Arabic script is unlikely to deliver the required transparency. A Geometric Kufi is far more likely to achieve this. Moreover, Kufi fits better the geometric shapes that Thierry took as the basis for his designs. Nevertheless, Thierry persisted in taking ‘a calligraphic’ or cursive version of the Arabic script as a starting point and this did not lead to an appropriate design. !e jury assumes that the disadvantage of not being proficient in the Arabic script may be to blame for this result. Designing a font requires fluency in the script the font is made for. !e jury felt that Thierry did not comprehend the flexibility of the Arabic writing system.

The jury had also specific remarks on the Arabic part:
"The Arabic character set in the typeface seems to be drawn without the proper knowledge of letter proportions and structures. !e choice of drawing some letters based on geometric structures while others on cursive arrangements make the set incoherent. It would have been better if the whole set was drawn based on the Geometric Kufic style that would have allowed for a more coherent stencil application to the glyphs and homogenous letterforms. Letters like the Fa', Qaf, Meem and Ha' are out of proportions in comparison to other letters. The Ra' and the Zain are too short while the Dal and Zal are tall. !e Kaf in its initial and medial forms is very small and short while the Ya' head goes all the way to the Ascender/Sky level. Some of the letters are totally improper and illegible like the Ain and the Ha' in their medial positions. In brief, the Arabic design is not drawn professionally and does not qualify to be awarded. A deeper understanding of the Arabic script is required. A stencil application on a properly drawn geometric Arabic set would have been successful."

Considering all aspects of Thierry’s font design, the jury believes that only a part of Thierry’s font meets the formal criteria of transparency. However, on a design level his font does not qualify. Therefore the jury decided to award Thierry
Fétiveau € 1000, and for his effort, an 'Honorable Mention’ instead of a 'Prize'.

Jury members
Yara Khoury Nammour
Pascal Zoghbi
Edo Smitshuijzen