Khatt Font Project

The Typographic Matchmaking 01 project

Building cultural bridges with typeface design

10 Arab and Dutch designers collaborate on designing Arabic companions for Dutch fonts

Typographic Matchmaking project 01- detail of book cover -

The Typographic Matchmaking project was initiated by the Khatt Foundation (Amsterdam), in April 2005. The Khatt Foundation selected and invited five renown Dutch designers and matched each one of them with an established and upcoming Arab designer. The aim was to facilitate a collaboration bewteen the Dutch and Arab designers in order to design Arabic typefaces that match and can become part of the font family of one of the Dutch designers’ existing font families. The main thrust of the project is to address the modernisation of Arabic text faces that can provide design solutions for legible Arabic fonts that answer the contemporary design needs in the Arab world (namely for publications and new digital media applications).

The designers involved

Gerard Unger & Nadine Chahine
Fred Smeijers & Lara Assouad Khoury
Martin Majoor & Pascal Zoghbi
Lucas de Groot & Mouneer Al-Shaarani
Peter Bilak & Tarek Atrissi

The Typographic Matchmaking project was first discussed with a number of Dutch designers during the ATypI conference in Prague in September of 2004, and developed accordingly into a project with a defined and practical design brief. The Khatt Foundation initiated the Typographic Matchmaking project, spearheaded and coordinated by Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès, in April 2005. Five renowned Dutch designers were invited and each was teamed-up with an established or upcoming Arab designer. The aim was to facilitate collaboration between the Dutch and Arab designers in order to design Arabic typefaces that can become members of one of the Dutch designers’ existing font families. The participating designers formed the following teams: Gerard Unger with Nadine Chahine, Fred Smeijers with Lara Assouad Khoury, Martin Majoor with Pascal Zoghbi, Lucas de Groot with Mouneer Al-Shaarani, and Peter Bilak with Tarek Atrissi. In order to create a smooth and productive collaboration, the designers involved were matched according to their aesthetic styles, their personalities, and/or experiences. The initial challenges of this project were slightly humbling. First, asking two type designers who have never worked together to design a typeface was highly unusual— usually type design is an extremely individual and solitary endeavor. Second, matching two designers from different cultural backgrounds (and in most cases) living in different countries posed other small complications; like traveling to meet face to face, or communicating remotely (through telephone and email). Third, the expertise of the selected designers within one team was diverse; ranging from highly advanced technical knowledge, to design experience, to mastery of the Arabic language and script. This latter condition created an interesting balance of expertise within each team and lead to productive inter-dependencies between the partners whereby each had new things to learn from this experimental project. The over-reaching goal of this project was to set an example and to propose working methods, standards, and conventions for creating professionally designed and produced Arabic fonts. The experiments, problems, and developments encountered during the research and design process of each team raised some questions (hopefully to be further investigated in later projects and by other designers), provided some solutions and demystified the design and production process of Arabic type.