Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès

Arabesque Latin Font in Mainstream Publishing

The Alef Pixel Caps, new drop cap initials for a hip Middle East lifestyle magazine

A new visual trend is certainly emerging in mainstream media where the political agendas have been voiced in subtle ways through playful everyday objects and stories. Alef magazine is attempting to lead the way by publishing this attractive glossy lifestyle magazine about contemporary Arabs that do not fit the mainstream media's stereotype.

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Alef magazine is a new type of fashion-lifestyle-culture magazine that focuses on the contemporary and hip aspects of life in the Arab world and thus changing in subtle but effective ways the image of the Arab youth/visual culture. It provides in an accessible and attractive manner another reality that hardly makes it into the news. 'Yes there are rich sophisticated Arabs who are very trendy and design-conscious' seems to be one of their visual statements. To this effect they are also visually bridging Arab and western trendiness and trying to commission work and writing that supports this vision. To this end they have started by bringing an arabesque look to their typography (and hopefully this essentially English language magazine will also start to have an Arabic language translation that will also feature contemporary Arabic fonts).

The magazine's stated goals could not be made any clearer:

Alef is the premier indigenous pan-Arab fashion, lifestyle and culture magazine that is wholly devoted to covering the Arab world. "Our mission is to showcase a modern and progressive Middle East and to spotlight the cultural and creative contribution of people of Arab origin. We focus on covering fashion, beauty, design, architecture, art, music, and film."


Approached by Alef Magazine, Pascal Zoghbi and Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès designed the drop initial caps typeface, Alef Caps, as a pixel font inspired by the Arabesque “Msharabiyé” eight-star shape. This font which will be used in the 6th issue of the magazine was commissioned as a Roman Drop Intial Caps type.

Alef Caps is a mono-spaced (all the letters have the same width) pixel font with seven pixels in width and eight pixels in height. Three fonts are present in the type-family.
1. Alef Caps A: the pixel letters are reversed out of an eight-star shape (that serves as a background frame for the letters)
2. Alef Caps B: the letters are created from an eight-star pixel matrix
3. Alef Caps C: same as Alef Caps B but the negative space is filled with the dots the size of the inner circle of the eight-star pixel

Although based on the same concept, each one of the three fonts gives a slightly different feel when typeset. The fonts are intended for use as drop initial caps and not for titling. However, some words with specific letter combinations could look nice when typeset with Alef Caps.
You can read more about the design process on Pascal Zoghbi's website