Two New Trends in Arabic Typography

Vladimir Tamari's picture

There are two new trends in Arabic typography that need to be critically discussed by the designer and user community.

One trend is Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFares' Typographic Matchmaking effort (www.khtt.net) where Arab type designers have been paired with master designers of Latin type to produce Arabic fonts that match the Latin in style. I feel the experience of working with master designers cannot but have a positive impact on the technical quality of any resulting type. On the other hand there is the inherent danger that the resulting Arabic glyphs are constrained in style and proportion to match the x height of the Latin. What is the best way for two fonts of very different languages to appear harmoniously on the same page?

Another important trend, Tasmeem, is a plug-in to Adobe's Middle East version of InDesign released by Winsoft www.winsoft-international.com . This is the result of years of research and effort by Tom Milo and his team at Decotype www.decotype.com. Here the software automatically manipulates the placement of a small number of component glyphs to produce type for the full range of Arabic and related languages, allowing the precise control of spacing, the choice of glyph variants, and the exact placements of dots and vowels. Tasmeem was originally conceived to display traditional calligraphic styles. How will the software work with newer more geometrical styles of Arabic?

I have drawn the following cartoon to show my personal take on these efforts, which are both based in Holland. The Matchmakers are to the left, while Tasmeem operations take place in the center. A larger-resolution open-license image is also attached.

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hrant's picture

Sadly, I agree with your cartoon!

hhp

Thomas Milo's picture

Sad indeed. An threatening. Imperialism appears to have taken a new guise :-)

First the grazhdanskaya tipografiya or civil type is developed for the Russians - by the Dutch. Helvetica to this day is under threat of - yes, Dutch type. And now aa alarming tsunami of Dutch design is hitting the Arab world. Whose script will be the next victim? Armenian? Japanese?

Let's stop this nonsense and begin with retuning Latin script to the Romans and Greek to the Phoenicians.

Good riddens. And good bye to world civilization.

Thomas Milo
DecoType
www.decotype.com

Thomas Milo's picture

BTW, Vladimir: Tasmeem is a new trend in font technology - and an old one at the same time, because the underlying ACE engine has been around for quite a while and was Microsoft's proof-of-concept for was later to become Open Type.

Tasmeem is totally transparent regarding Arabic typography, so one cannot seriously raise a debate about Tasmeem relative to "matchmaking". Tasmeem can handle such typography just as well as any other approach to Arabic script.

The real trends are Design vs. Modelling of Arabic script. Modeling was the original business of all typographers, design is by now a no longer new secondary approach to Arabic typography. Computer Modelling however is technically speaking new, it attempts to document, analyse and synthesize classic styles and typfaces and make them available as Arabic typography.

ACE is very suitable for Computer Modelling, whereas OpenType is less useful for this approach. Yet is has been attempted at least once, as can be seen in the MS Arabic typesetting font. I believe Diwan's Mushafi font is also an OpenType computer model. On the other hand there s nothing in matchmaking to date that ACE couldn't handle. In fact, our new template approach to Tasmeem Font Design will make life of matchmakers, too, a lot easier. After all, the graphic template is supported by an invisible logic and unicode template. Your own Al Quds Tasmeemi - a good example of matchmaking - displays the famous Afghani Rahman Baba poem perfectly - in Pashto.

Summarizing: Tasmeem and Matchmaking ar not playing in the same league, a comparison is a non-starter. They are not at odds with each other. Nor are Design vs Modelling. They exist side by side.

Regards,

Thomas Milo
DecoType
www.decotype.com

AzizMostafa's picture

Sadly Arabs are still looking West by coming into houses (of AC+AT) from their rear windows, whereas their doors open East?!

Thomas Milo's picture

Through Eastern doors boatloads of Japanese cars come to the Arabs. Through western windows downloads of software come to the Arabs. All main computer platforms are American, along with the domination of simplified computer Arabic. Typographers today, including designers for Arabic, work with Russian tools. French arabize the Creative Suite. Bulgarians and Romanians once manufactured Korans on a large scale. Hungarians and Armenians created the Arabic typography that made it work for the Middle east. Persians wrote the grammar of Classical Arabic. Italians translated it. Germans study it. There's nothing sad about all this. These are all fascinating aspects of world civilization, of which the Arabs are part and parcel.

Thomas Milo
DecoType
www.decotype.com

behnam's picture

I'm all with you on this Tom.
I like to see a total separation between design options and technical matters. And I like to see technical matters don't stand on the way of design, the way they always did.
Although I think that matchmaking is a terribly terribly awful idea, but I don't want to see technical matters stand on its way. The question is why nobody thought of matching Roman script to Arabic?!
I only hope that your project expands in the real world in a tangible way.
Good luck,

Behnam

AzizMostafa's picture

Thomas Milo + Behnam

There’s nothing sad about all this (to non-Arab). These are all fascinating aspects of world civilization, of which the Arabs are (not) part and parcel.

All that because Arabs consigned the God-Sent Glorious Quran to oblivion.

behnam's picture

People don't speak Quran. They speak a language.

AzizMostafa's picture

Had God made it a non-Arabic Qur'an, they would have surely said,
"Why have not its signs been articulated?"
" What! A non-Arabian scripture [and an Arabian] prophet]!?"
Say," For those who have faith, it is a guidance and healing;
but as for those who are faithless, there is a deafness in their ears
and it is lost to their sight."
They are as if they were called from a distant place.

Saad Abulhab's picture

Behnam wrote:

>>The question is why nobody thought of matching Roman script to Arabic?!

Look around there are tons of those. In Latin users have so many choices, Arabic users should too. The way to do it is to *believe* in users (not to speak on their behalf) and keep options *wide* open. This openness was the reason behind the golden days for Arabic, but we should not keep rehearsing past successes only but also make new advances and learn past lessons. Making fixed design rules or allowing only limited fixed flavors, would eventually destroy the Arabic script.

While I do not think we should forbid matchmaking or even criticize it, I personally do not think matchmaking would be the ideal or significant way to advance Arabic typography. I do not see value for Arabic in fixed x-heights, for example. I believe designers should look to the rich history of Arabic shapes for innovation, and understand the rich lessons of typography as a field, Latin, or else, to apply in Arabic. Arabic type designers' heroes need not be necessarily those of Latin typography, but those of Arabic typography and calligraphy.

I see Tom Milo's work as a significant breakthrough. Over the years, his dedication had made him "shaykh al-Musammimeen". Still, I had never seen the value of his work as being the right or the wrong typography. I see it as a great Arabic typography work. He is therefore a real Arabic typography hero.

Matchmaking is OK as long as it is not presented as the way Arabic typography "should" be. It is ok as long as it is not turned into a vehicle to exercise censorship and disrespect to others, or to use as a way to promote personal resumes by coupling up with shiny Latin Typography names! What was disturbing in that project was not the project itself, but the fact it was coupled with comments to "redicule" great Arbabic typography works like that of Decotype.

-Saad

Saad Abulhab's picture

Vladimir

I love your cartoon. Again, a man of a million talents!

>>What is the best way for two fonts of very different languages to appear harmoniously on the same page?

The best way is to think about Latin/Arabic harmony as an isolated and limited task for a specific font, and to get on with designing *Arabetic* fonts without harmony with Latin in mind!

>>Tasmeem was originally conceived to display traditional calligraphic styles. How will the software work with newer more geometrical styles of Arabic?

The main problem of Tasmeem is it current high intimidating learning and production curve. The closer a designer of Opentype can design Tasmeem fonts as if desining an OpenType, the better Tasmeem will work for Arabic.

-Saad

Saad Abulhab's picture

AzizMostafa wrote:

>>All that because Arabs consigned the God-Sent Glorious Quran to oblivion.

Oh, no. The Arabs have kept their Quran ok, but without a drop of shame they have *unnecessarily* trashed their Arabic language to the lowest level, may god never forgive them for that!

In Dubei, Dohah, Riyad,...etc, they have done to Arabic what even Lebanon did not dare to it, with all its empty Ramonce with French. In the Persian Gulf, they write "shareehat Samak" (شريحة سمك), "fish fillet" in Arabic font like this "فش فيللت" Or they write "Maqtu'ah Musiqiah" (مقطوعة موسيقية), "Clip" and wite it in Arabic font like this: "كليب"

I rather write English language words in English letters, loosers! In a good melting pot culture like that of Baghdad 1000 years ago, not Dubai now a day, non Arabs came in and became heroes of Arabic in addition to keeping aspects of their culture. A new rich culture was born. In the westernized fake societies of the Middle East today, all cultures are trashed, the hosting and the visiting ones. Following the words of Quraan while trashing the Arabic language can not go together!

-Saad

nadine_chahine's picture

Dear Vladimir,
It's a very interesting point that you raise though I disagree with the premise of the argument. I find that in the recent period there has been a needless politicizing of Arabic typography in which projects are labeled as either a Huda or a Thomas approach. This is problematic to the field and I truly believe that we should snap out of this mind set.

It is true that there are new trends emerging in Arabic type design and though they might fall along the lines you describe, there are other ways to look at this.

Some designers are more interested in the resulting visual aesthetic (for example, an Arabic companion to a famous Latin typeface) and there are those who are interested in investigating the complex structural aspects of the script (and that's where Tasmeem sits). In the first camp, the end result is a product intended for a specific use (a text face, a signage face etc...) while the second camp is an approach to design rather than a product in itself.

This is why I would argue against a split between what you describe as 2 trends. It would be quite feasible to design an Arabic version of a Latin typeface using Tasmeem technology. It is true that in designing an Arabic counterpart to an existing Latin there are a lot of considerations that need to be taken, but it does not necessarily mean that the basic characteristics of the script are being sacrificed.

There's been a lot of publicity regarding the Typographic Matchmaking project and as one of the designers, I can easily say that it's been taken a bit out of context. As far as I know, none of the designers looked at their designs as the "one solution" to the question of Arabic type design. The process of working alongside more experienced type designers and learning from them was the whole point of the exercise, at least for me. It was a great experience and we all benefited.

The Typographic Matchmaking project was not the first, and is not the last, to approach the concept of an Arabic match to existing Latin. It is a legitimate question, not because Arabic needs to follow a Latin, but because of the demands of the market place. This demand exists and the perils of graphic designers taking things into their own hands can be seen in the streets of Dubai where cut-and-paste Latin characters masquerade as Arabic.

In any case, I think we should rejoice in the fact that so many people are interested in exploring new ideas. It's a very exciting period to live in.

k.l.'s picture

I agree with your conclusions. The most important sentence is this:

It would be quite feasible to design an Arabic version of a Latin typeface using Tasmeem technology.

Put differently, TMM could as well have used ACE technology* instead of OT technology. OT layout tables are mere technology, ACE is mere technology, and both can be used for whatever kind of design.
The difference is their architecture and how suited each is for the task at hand (laying out Arabic script). This affects not only elegance of the respective approach but also reduction of complexity -- how easy is it for designers to create fonts of various degrees of complexity. The last aspect is not unimportant. If the reason for typefaces to be kept "simple" is restrictions of the technology, then something went terribly wrong. Technology should be gentle and allow for whatever may make sense. And whether designers prefer simplified or complex designs should be entirely driven by their design visions, not by technology or by their ability or inability to master it. With OpenType, I fear that often it is indeed the latter than determines design.

One tiny correction. In the opposition which you sketch there is a misconception which is also at the heart of the (to me) silly ACE vs TMM debate:

Some designers are more interested in the resulting visual aesthetic (for example, an Arabic companion to a famous Latin typeface) and there are those who are interested in investigating the complex structural aspects of the script (and that's where Tasmeem sits).

This neglects an important point: Analysing the structure of a script (in this case Arabic) is necessary condition for developing technology which in turn serves as vehicle for actual fonts which incorporate this or that design. In so far, Thomas did the ground work on which results others can base their (design) work.
(In this respect, of course not only ACE but also the architecture of OT layout tables is based on analysis of one or more scripts. Which again raises the single relevant question -- which analysis and thus technology is more appropriate?)

Reading Vladimir's original post again, I find that this is in the first place about different approaches to design. The one visible in TMM typefaces and DecoType's which is more traditional. The mentioning of Tasmeem or ACE in this context is a bit misleading because it mixes different levels. Or does the question "How will the software work with newer more geometrical styles of Arabic?" indicate that the design level is independent of the technology level?

* Not "Tasmeem technology". ACE is the technology, Tasmeem makes use of it. Just like OT is the technology of which InDesign makes use. As an analogy, you would not say that Linotype offers "InDesign fonts", I assume.  :)

[Says someone who is ignorant of Arabic but highly interested in technology as Bedingung für die Möglichkeit von design.]

Vladimir Tamari's picture

Sadly, I agree with your cartoon!
Hrant, it was supposed to make us laugh! Even at ourselves, as well as to think about Arabic typography.

These are all fascinating aspects of world civilization, of which the Arabs are part and parcel
Exactly, Tom. We are living in an incredible period of history where the fruits of science and technology are available to one and all. Let us not forget the invention of algebra and the adoption of the zero, which are at the heart of computer languages 0000100110. Moslems and Arabs have nothing to be ashamed of in this age that started with Western technical dominance.

Matchmaking is OK as long as it is not presented as the way Arabic typography “should” be
Well, Saad, the khtt website presents it as a turning Point in Arab Typography. Matchmaking is a sound idea only insofar as that two languages on the same page should not appear to compete for attention without reason. Since the mid-sixties the Arab press is favoring the use of Latinized Arab numerals 012345 (rather than the Indic numerals). The fonts often used for the numerals is awfully mismatched and jumps out of the line in a disturbing way. The glory of Arabic script is the compact and curvatious lines and highly developed sense of the individuality of each letter-shape. It is written in a totally different spirit than Latin with its blocks of same-height letters and repeated forms.

It is true that there are new trends emerging in Arabic type design and though they might fall along the lines you describe, there are other ways to look at this.
Indeed, Nadine. You are specially welcome here as it is good to hear the views of someone in a position to know much more about what is going on in the market and design community than any one of us as individuals. The cartoon did not depict the many other significant developments going on in Arabic font design, only to deal with the topical subject of the panel discussion that took place last week in Amsterdam. I hope to learn more about what occurred there.
I should explain a bit more about why I find the Matchmaking vs. Tasmeem so necessary to discuss critically. It has now become technically possible to present scripts of any imaginable complexity by programming the software under the hood. That is what Tom and his Tasmeem team have done so brilliantly for Arabic, and designers and font developers should explore its possibilities not only for calligraphic styles such as Naskh. More about that later.
In contrast my impression is that Huda’s Matchmaking effort holds Latin as the ideal to which Arabic should aspire. This is indeed sad. Doubtless Latin type has had centuries of a head start over Arabic (or Japanese or Telugu) but each script has an essential design philosophy that should be respected even as the shapes adapt to modern techniques and prevailing design fashions. The khtt group has succeeded nicely to encourage young people to take an interest in Arabic typography, and Tasmeem is making headway among printing and publishing professionals. It is high time the two teams in Holland cooperate in some ways to further promote the field as a whole. Arabic typography and font design can only benefit.

The question is why nobody thought of matching Roman script to Arabic?!
Behnam, I have recently designed a Latin font to match in style, stem width and line endings the Arabic of my forthcoming AlQuds font. I am now newly aware how difficult it is to design a really good Latin font!

It would be quite feasible to design an Arabic version of a Latin typeface using Tasmeem technology
Karsten, not only of Latin, insofar as I understand its workings, Tasmeem is an intelligent-font technology that can be adapted to any script.

As Aziz would say, with tulips.

finedesign's picture

Forgive an ignorant student of Arabic and Calligraphy to ask some questions...I know I'm going to say some ignorant things here, and you guys are going to set me in my place. Good. I'm truly asking in order to understand.

Didn't Arabic evolve from the Kufi script that was originally somewhat flat, rigid and rather "Latinesque?" (fixed/blocky) I know Kufi has many styles, but before Islam the Arabic script was very basic, yes? Eventually master calligraphers redefined the original Arabic into incredible art forms, but couldn't it be said that they did this because they were playing with the language and redefining it?

I mean, were the avant garde calligraphers not true to the original Kufi script when they made Nasque, Thuluth or Diwani? They were expanding on the past to meet current trends or regional artistic styles (surely influenced by their own cultural heritage).

This just seems to be the natural course of civilization. What if 1000 years down the road we're trying to cram Latin characters into the next big thing?

Is everybody uptight because we feel like the Arabic script will be lost if we force it into the Latin mold? I think MUCH worse things have happened, such as Saad's lamenting "كليب". Perhaps people are unnecessarily lumping Matchmaking into the same pot?

How is the Matchmaking project any different than what happened in the past? They're meeting a need. Is Tasmeem a sweet idea? Of course. I have the basic Tasmeem myself.

As a designer, I want it all! Not necessarily on the same page, but I still want it all. (But I reserve the right to change my mind.)

Vladimir Tamari's picture

Didn’t Arabic evolve from the Kufi script that was originally somewhat flat, rigid and rather “Latinesque?” (fixed/blocky)
You make a good point. Square kufic is also alive and well today and many fonts owe their design principles to it. On the other hand Latin is not always necessarily blocky and rigid- what about the fantastical swashbuckling quill-pen calligraphy of yore with spirals and curves sweeping all over the page? My objection is that the Matchmakers started out from the very start to create an Arabic font subservient to a given Latin. Why not the other way round? Perhaps it is a sort of 'political' objection after all. Arabs should have a bit more confidence, pride and respect - call it a love - for their traditions and make an effort to find their own style in this amazing multinational world of ours.

Saad Abulhab's picture

Finedesign (Paul) wrote:

>>I know I’m going to say some ignorant things here, and you guys are going to set me in my place.

Permit me to call you Paul! What you said is quite eloquent and more mature than I have ever heard from most members of our Arabic Typography community.

>>Didn’t Arabic evolve from the Kufi script that was originally somewhat flat, rigid and rather “Latinesque?” (fixed/blocky) I know Kufi has many styles, but before Islam the Arabic script was very basic, yes? Eventually master calligraphers redefined the original Arabic into incredible art forms, but couldn’t it be said that they did this because they were playing with the language and redefining it?

Precisely. I think the earlier move to cursive forms and subsequently to the elaborate calligraphic forms was necessitated by many legitimate factors. In these old golden times, the main rule that was in effect was “open mindedness”; there were no “script rules”. In our typographic age, with many other factors playing, (typographic, political, religious, economic ... etc), we need to move on and stay away for any fixed design notion. I am actually finishing up new fonts for Jazm, the earliest Arabic script which is directly related to early Kufi, just to illustrate this point.

>> How is the Matchmaking project any different than what happened in the past?

I think the main problem of Matchmaking concept is that it “sucks up” (unnecessarily) to Latin! To start, I would re-iterate Vladimir and Behnam points, harmonizing two scripts is two way process. We do need to incorporate good typographic design concepts and ideas used in Latin (or other scripts) as good design concepts not as Latin design concepts; just as driving a car today in not “Westernization” or studying “Al-Jabr” (Algebra) is not “Arabization”. Typography is an independent field, re-using design concepts used for Latin, does not owe a “penny” to Latin, but to Typography. What bothers me the most about the Matchmaking is that young designers are sitting down to design Arabic fonts in general (not to fulfill a specific harmonizing project need) but having harmonizing with Latin as the main goal and drive. People around the world do not drive cars to match western civilization look, do they?

Secondly, despite the fact that anyone of us can learn from colleagues around the world, one must be careful not to give the impression that a well known Latin type designer can have any significant input for Arabic type design without being *significantly and sufficiently involved* in the field. Otherwise this would become just a “photo opportunity” to look good.

-Saad

Saad Abulhab's picture

Vladimir

>>Since the mid-sixties the Arab press is favoring the use of Latinized Arab numerals 012345 (rather than the Indic numerals). The fonts often used for the numerals is awfully mismatched and jumps out of the line in a disturbing way.

This was actually a good phenomenon that went wrong because of laziness or perhaps due to that Matchmaking mentality. In all my fonts, I take time to redesign these numbers to match the Arabic text, in a clear bias decision.

>>The glory of Arabic script is the compact and curvatious lines and highly developed sense of the individuality of each letter-shape. It is written in a totally different spirit than Latin with its blocks of same-height letters and repeated forms.

This is true to some extent, but should not be taken to an extreme. We need to address, additionally, typography, without requiring blindly rules of calligraphy and handwritting. As Latin typography succeeded to do to some extend, Arabic typography should rid itself from that “anal typography” element within!

>>You are specially welcome here as it is good to hear the views of someone in a position to know much more about what is going on in the market and design community than any one of us as individuals.

The Arabetic font market needs wide options. Designers need to design, present, and let users decide. A market share of 1% for a font is as legitimate and important as 30%! No one should be in a position to deprive Arabic from this natural basic right.

>>It has now become technically possible to present scripts of any imaginable complexity by programming the software under the hood.

This is great news indeed, but it should not be used as call to “keep” intact complex scribing and calligraphy rules as rules of typography. As I wrote in one of my articles a “technology friendly font is a font independent of technology”. Technology changes and there is no final solution here. Arabic fonts should not be obstacle to technology, but an easy and light companion of it.

>>I am now newly aware how difficult it is to design a really good Latin font!

Actually I think designing good Arabic fonts is much easier than designing Latin fonts, even lousy Latin fonts.

-Saad

finedesign's picture

@Saad, you made it perfectly clear to me now. Thank you.

However, I must say that we are in uncharted times...globalization is causing us to think in new ways as to the balance between cultural identity and interconnectivity. A thousand years ago, did we need to "shoehorn" one script into another? Again, because of the times, I think it's inevitable.

For that reason, I think this Matchmaking trend COULD go the other way too! Why not "shoehorn" Latin into Arabic. That would be sweet. :)

I think the main fear is that "Americanization" (I'm from the US, by the way) is robbing the world of it's distinct people groups and cultures. Fair enough. I agree wholeheartedly. Yemen is special because it's so un-American (for the time being). But if it wasn't America, it would be somebody else. The fact is, we're all being squished together and we need ways to be interconnected. There is going to be some trade-off on all sides.

Looking at it another way, could we say the same thing about interracial marriages? (Boy, this is a dangerous opener!) Do we lament the fact that a dark-skinned and light-skinned couple has a baby that's brown? I'm not even saying it's wrong to dislike that. I like living in Yemen, where the distinctive features of the people immediately set me apart visually. Are we all going to be brown in 1000 years? I don't think so, because there will always be people who prefer their own race. (Like we will always have true Nasque fonts) And that makes me happy too. I know I'm not comparing apples to apples, but in an odd way I see a connection.

And forgive me for making the connection if I'm in error, but on your Arabetics site (www.arabetics.com), several of your fonts appear to be using Basic Arabic. Isn't that worse than Matchmaking? To disconnect individual letters in Arabic just doesn't make sense to me and is the epitome of "sucking up." (I don't mean this disrespectfully.)

My account says finedesign, but I included my true name in the registration form. By default, Drupal displays the username, not the actual name. But I thought Typophile folks changed this to show the actual name. Anyway, thanks for figuring out my real name.

@Vladimir
I knew I was going to be sorry for saying Latin was "fixed/blocky" since we all know there is a cursive script. But thank you for your feedback as well. I think I also responded to your comment in the above statements.

I really like this forum topic, though. I think the central question remains, "Just because I CAN do something, doesn't mean I SHOULD do it." That's why we're designers. We're hired to be discretionary.

with zahoor (you guys crack me up)

Saad Abulhab's picture

Hello Paul,

Nice to chat with someone living in the heartland of Arabia!

>>A thousand years ago, did we need to “shoehorn” one script into another? Again, because of the times, I think it’s inevitable.

Actually Arabic Jazm was a clear adaptation of Musnad (the old Arabic script) to Aramaic and Hebraic scripts of the North. Script will forever interact due to real factors on the ground. But for interaction to be healthy and productive for all, it has to be interaction and melting and replacement.

>>To disconnect individual letters in Arabic just doesn’t make sense to me and is the epitome of “sucking up.” (I don’t mean this disrespectfully.)

Arabic Musnad (all over you in Yaman) had both isolated forms and cursive forms for centuries, and was bi-directional. Arabic Jazm, its derivative, started with mixed forms and ended very cursive for good reasons. Today, Latin has both too, it did not always. I am not sure why despite all facts, one must insist or even hint that Latin owns a monopoly or patent on the proccess of simplification, adaption and diversification? Why would designing isolated (or as I call them virtually connected) *fully Arabic* letter forms would be "sucking up" to Latin or any other script? If you can prove that Latin owns the right to isolated forms, I would be glad to give Latin the credit.

-Saad

Saad Abulhab's picture

I meant to say:

But for interaction to be healthy and productive for all, it has to be interaction *not* melting and replacement.

behnam's picture

What's the point of matchmaking anyway? If it's about making Arabic script look like Roman, I have a far better idea. Adopting Roman script altogether (which I was a supporter in my youth and still have nothing against it). This way at least you take advantage of superior functionality.
But if it's about making them look good side by side, then make them look good side by side! Looking good doesn't mean looking identical. It means looking harmonious, each script remaining true to its nature. This is what makes them looking good. Be flamboyant, minimalist, modern, whatever you want to be in design options, but put your art to each script for what they are. Two fundamentally different scripts.
Let's face it. This is a non issue for Roman users. They don't have to put an Arabic email address, an Arabic URL, and Arabic brand name or an Arabic technical term, two three five times in each paragraph. This is an Arabic issue. And it can only be resolved in an Arabic font.
And this IS the starting point. A font that wants to create harmony between these two scripts is an ARABIC font. The issue has nothing to do with the x height.
Design Arabic and Roman characters the way you want, minding visual harmony in thickness and magnification of both scripts, adjusting the line spacing for the Arabic part (and that's the key) and you are done... in any design option.

Saad Abulhab's picture

Bahnam wrote

>>Adopting Roman script altogether (which I was a supporter in my youth and still have nothing against it). This way at least you take advantage of superior functionality.

In many occasions I wrote that the number one reason why I do what I do is that I am still living the nightmare of Kamal Ataturk despicable move always from the Arabic script. I can not even tolerate reading the proposal of Sa'eed Aqil for a Latin based Lebanese national font. Let me admit here: I live in paranoia when it come to hearing such thoughts loud, because I see the Ataturk threat is live and kicking, waiting for the right moment to attack.

It is was once said that the extreme right and left would eventually meet. The Otaman Turks exajurated Arabic typography to an extreme level, only to replace it all together overnight! I think The Persians are equally capable. Lets face, one should just look at what the Arabs did to their Language in the Basrah Gulf area!

-Saad

behnam's picture

Saad wrote
>>one should just look at what the Arabs did to their Language in the Basrah Gulf area!

Oh yes! Basrah Gulf area. That was fourteen hundred years ago and my memory is a little bit sketchy!
Nonetheless, the Chinese still speak Chinese not Arabic don't they?!

I do understand your fear. Actually Reza Shah was very tempted to implement Ataturk idea. With his authoritarian power, he might have been the first and most probably the last person to actually be able to do it. But once he thought of what it might do to our literary treasures, he changed his mind (although he was illiterate, he was brilliant). But I do fear more the culture behind this matchmaking concept than the consequences of a total script change.

Pentapus's picture

Is it possible to get a visual example of how an "authentic" Arabic typeface looks next to a typeface developed by one of the originally mentioned teams (one Latin master one Arabic designer)?

I'm interested to see the "damage" if any was done to the forms. In the illustration we see top sections cut off. I doubt any great typographer would be so careless as to warrant the comparison.

Bonus-
Here is an interview with Nadine Chahine, the Typographer that worked with Adrian Frutiger to create Frutiger Arabic.
http://ilovetypography.com/2008/05/01/face-to-face-an-interview-with-nad...

Pentapus's picture

If you read the interview you'll notice she cares very much about Arabic legibility and she considered working with Frutiger and Zapf (separately) 2 of 3 of her proudest moments.

Saad Abulhab's picture

>>Oh yes! Basrah Gulf area. That was fourteen hundred years ago and my memory is a little bit sketchy!

Fourteen hundred years ago Gulf of Adan, Gulf of Uman, Gulf of Bangal, and Gulf of Basrah were all called that way in the maps (yes there were maps then), why would I have to call the Gulf of Basrah, now, the Arab Gulf, the Persian Gulf, or even the Muslim Gulf! Wasn't it the western colonialists and their local short-sighted allies and servants who eventually roped the Gulf of Basrah its name, let alone its oil!?
Basrah (not Dubai of Bandar Abbas!) was referred to historically as the Pearl of the Gulf.

>>Nonetheless, the Chinese still speak Chinese not Arabic don’t they?!

The Chinese never abandoned their language or script. The Muslims of west China, are distinct people, they chose Arabic script, and still do fiercely.

Dear Behnam, I was raised in Karbala, were I was *thankfully* exposed to a lot of Asian cultures, especially Persian. As a boy I struggled reading that Naskh Taleeq style for a little while! The way I see it, Persians, Turks, Afganis .. etc own what is now called the Arabic script, as much as the Arabs, and may be more. After all, in Iraq, we owe it to the Persian clergymen that Arabic had survived under the Utuman Turks (The grandfathers of today's Iraqi Persian clergymen who sold out to "Born Again Christian" Bush!)

Matchmaking may be an irritating and passing away "suck up", or may be a way to advance and enrich the Arabetic typography, it all depends on intention and manner of execution. Total script change is a "total sin", under any pretext! It is as much an anti Persian sin as it is anti Arabic. I would rather see Persia go back to its Aramaic Pehlavi or Avista scripts than Latin!

-Saad

AzizMostafa's picture

Q: What do you enjoy most and least about designing type?
A: ... I hate kerning Arabic.

In response to Nadine_Chahine+ Pentapus, I had 2 postings here:
http://www.typophile.com/node/28634

nadine_chahine's picture

Very interesting discussion. Just some random thoughts:

. Designing a harmonious Arabic and Latin is an exercise which does *not* necessarily mean that the Arabic is subservient to Latin, or that it looses any of its qualities

. The Matchmaking project is actually 5 different approaches to this problem, and should not be bundled in one lump

. There are many different ways to look at this exercise and many different ways to solve the problem. For example, compare my typefaces: Koufiya with Frutiger Arabic and Palatino Arabic

Koufiya: Both Latin and Arabic were designed at the same time; both were treated in a way that they work together but they do not sacrifice their integrity. The Arabic relates to Early Kufi.

Frutiger Arabic: the Arabic was designed to work as a signage font that can sit on the same signage system as the Latin. As it is meant to be seen in large sizes, the drawing treatment is similar to the Latin, and the style is a mix of Kufi and Ruqaa.

Palatino Arabic: the Arabic was designed to function as a bookface and is Naskh in style. The actual drawing style does not follow the Latin, but the optical size and weight are a match. This approach is on a more ideological level.

. As we stand today, we have a tradition of complexity in our manuscripts as well as a much simplified version in our traditional typefaces. The simplification was a result of technological limitations that barely exist today. However, the legacy of this simplified style exists, so do we keep it on even though the reasons for it have disappeared? Is there any typographic value in Simplified Naskh?

If you're interested in these questions, please wait till I finish my PhD in legibility studies! I'm testing the effect of complexity on the legibility of Arabic and I'm hoping to get some answers... I'm sorry I can't give more details or participate more often here as I really need to study!!

behnam's picture

The visibility of Arabic script is a matter of vertical space. The line spacing in the font.
Beside the obvious physical law, that anything in smaller size is less visible than in larger size, there is absolutely no visibility problem with Arabic script... unless it is viewed through the Roman eyes.
But looking at it through the Roman eyes is completely unnecessary. Because Roman fonts do not need Arabic.
If there is a special project which requires materials in Arabic and Roman, tastefully selecting an Arabic font on one hand, and choosing a Roman font on the other, can do the job eloquently.
But Roman in Arabic fonts is needed for everyday use and for such font, Roman characters have ample room to position themselves properly beside Arabic characters.

There is a couple of exceptions however, that Roman fonts do need to contain Arabic. Fonts that provide some technical support to a device for its functionality, or technical support for functionality of communication between devices. Fixed width fonts and OS system fonts are of that nature and reasonably they should be considered as Roman fonts containing Arabic.
The issue of visibility only arise in such context. Meaning when Arabic script is deployed in a font fundamentally Roman.
For fixed width fonts, there is practically no expectation for aesthetics and Courier New for example, is quite successful to provide an Arabic support for what it intends to do. There is no typographic expectation.
For system fonts, the situation is complicated. They need to include Arabic for technical support but they can't provide the typographic needs of the script. Yet their presence is highly noticeable.
The abomination of Microsoft's Tahoma for Arabic script (which has now apparently become a school of thought!) was actually a creative approach to address the visibility issue of Arabic script within a Roman system font. For Arabic script in a Roman font, the choice is between shrinking the characters to fit the Roman line space (therefore visibility problem), or chopping off the script and maintaining the same magnification as the Roman characters. Tahoma chose the second and successfully so, for what it intended to do. But what it intended to do, by no means was to create an Arabic font.
Apple in Mac OS 10 initially had the same approach as Tahoma, with its system font Lucida Grande. But after the first or second update, this approach was abandoned to address the problem of noticeable presence of system font in Arabic rendering.
The system font of Mac OS 10 now allocate Arabic rendering to a specifically designed Arabic font called Geeza Pro. This is a very well rounded simplified Naskh font and although it hasn't resolved yet the spacing and somewhat the magnification issue, but it does address the noticeability issue and the Arabic rendering at system level on a Mac is quite good.
I think this is the approach that should be considered when for technical reasons a fundamentally Roman font needs to provide Arabic support too.

So the issue is not visibility. It's the space. Zapfino is not less visible than Times. It only needs more space. And this is *not* a deficiency. For the same magnification, Arabic script needs more space. This also is not a 'deficiency' to be 'fixed'. The difference is that for Roman script Zapfino is a design choice. For Arabic it is inherent to the script.

When the space is inherent to the script, designer can only play within and around that space. And why should you do it otherwise if you are designing an Arabic font? Of-course the creativity can go anywhere it wants. It can increase or decrease the vertical space of the characters. But it is very important to emphasize that this creativity should be through Arabic eyes, not Roman.
I'm drafting this text with an Arabic font that I made with this concept. It provides perfectly balanced visibility and magnification for both Arabic and Roman. This balance is necessary for Arabic use in which Roman is vastly present. And although this Arabic font is not intended for Roman only text, the text I'm drafting right now is quite acceptable for non professional use. This Arabic font does not cut off head and legs of Roman characters. All it does is that it puts a little more line spacing that is a tad excessive for Roman only use.
Unless there is a technical purpose, Roman font makers need not include Arabic to their fonts.

Thomas Milo's picture

The event which Vladimir caught in his cartoon is being posted here:

http://river-valley.tv/conferences/arabic_typography_2008/

My talk is already available, the ones by Tarek and Titus will follow suit.

Again, I was afflicted by airconditionitis after a week of unfresh air in Dubai. Sorry.

Thomas Milo
DecoType
www.decotype.com

k.l.'s picture

I'm testing the effect of complexity on the legibility of Arabic and I'm hoping to get some answers ...

This sounds really interesting!
Maybe the test could take into account earlier discussions about what is actually measured, what results are supposed to tell, and thus how such tests be set up. (Esp. Peter Enneson's comments here. Is it enough to measure speed?)
The crucial question is, what will the test prove? For example, whatever will turn out to be more legible by whatever definition (to be defined) and under whatever test set-up (to be documented) -- will the result indicate that this or that kind of design is more legible per se? Or does it acknowledge that readers (participants) are used to, and thus trained in, reading it, and read it more "fluently"?

Two aspects: Make sure participants are not just students but cover all ages and type. And ask if and what they usually read -- after the test. So, have academic vs non-academic, young vs old people, which at the same time may help bring together people who read books, or newspapers, or online (TV captions?), or not at all. (Maybe even ask what kind of books and which newspaper(s), where possible check in which typeface these are set.) That way, one would not get some "abstract" information about typeface's legibility but can put them into context, and find out if -- or not -- test results and reading habits correlate.
Maybe it would be interesting to perform the same test in different countries?

My wishlist applies to Latin-script reading tests too ...

Best wishes, Karsten

AzizMostafa's picture

1. Thanks Karsten for bringing about the effect of complexity on the legibility of Arabic and for these 2 links:
http://www.typophile.com/node/50834
http://typophile.com/node/41365

2. So, have academic vs non-academic, young vs old people...

... males vs females and fonty vs unfonty ...

k.l.'s picture

Thanks for digging out more links!
Yes -- as diverse as possible.
One exception maybe. If possibly, avoid fonty ones, they know too much to serve as unbiased test participants. They may judge more than "feel".  :)

Oh, I should add, the idea was brought up by Nadine Chahine above (end of her post), and I just cited here in the first two italicised lines.

AzizMostafa's picture

Have just recalled this one:
http://www.typophile.com/node/28777#comment-169753

@ Oh, I should add, the idea was brought up by Nadine Chahine above...

> Oh, I should blame the Kangaroo + recall the Zebra:
http://typophile.com/node/29362#comment-169428

Thanks Karsten for reminding me with flowers

behnam's picture

Legibility is a study in design. I'm sure Nadine reflection on this issue will be very valuable.
I am not a designer. I'm an amateur font maker that put the already designed characters together. Albeit, I modify them extensively. But this is not a practice in design. It is a practice in making a font that works for me.
That's why my point was about 'visibility'. The physical part of the issue, which I strongly believe has confused many designers.

finedesign's picture

@Saad
Sorry, I meant to reply sooner regarding your post. I was waiting on a response from someone regarding this forum. They never replied, so I’m just moving forward.

See, I told you I would be put in my place. I am truly asking these questions as a learner. I looked up the two typefaces (if we can call them that?) and in a cursory search only found info on Musnad which I do indeed recognize. It’s written on the old Marib Dam from the Sabaen days. They also used it in Ethiopia, since Saba extended there too. The other example, Jazm I couldn’t find.

Maybe I shouldn’t have said all disconnected letters = Latin. I guess I just didn’t understand the reason the characters in your fonts were disconnected, and it reminded me of Basic Arabic, which seems to be along the same lines as Matchmaking, only with less integrity. So I assumed it was a bow to Latin or western perspective. But thank you for correcting me.

However, your argument leads me to support Matchmaking even more. Arabic is even more flexible than I imagined!

I also appreciate your online friendliness, Saad. It is refreshing.

@behnam
To answer your question as to “What’s the point?” Because it’s so drop–dead gorgeous to see the two together! It’s gestalt at it’s best. That’s an opinion from a jaded, western mindset, yes. But I think it’s progressive and very functional.

I have a suggestion for everybody…
All this talk can be a waste of time if we don’t use visual examples and discuss it on a case–by–case basis. I don’t think anyone, Huda herself, is trying to say Matchmaking is the cure–all. But in some settings, I think it works best. But perhaps you will convince me otherwise.

Behnam mentions he developed an Arabic font. Several others here I’m sure have too. Why don’t we put several cases side–by–side? I took an example of one of the Matchmaking typefaces (Nadine’s Frutiger Arabic), and put it next to a couple “correct” (I assume?) typefaces. This is only a starting point, and I am not suggesting my alternates are improvements. But I have included the source files for the below so that you can modify the logo according to your preference (using your own fonts) so that it conforms to your ideas of correctness. I would like to see them all side–by–side.

The examples follow. Sorry I couldn’t find a better example…I'm not too keen on this one. Please click the image to view the larger format, or download the source files and typeset it with your “true” Arabic fonts.

http://l.paulwreid.com/imgs/typophile/baraka_2.jpg
http://l.paulwreid.com/imgs/typophile/baraka_2_big.jpg
http://l.paulwreid.com/imgs/typophile/baraka_5.jpg
http://l.paulwreid.com/imgs/typophile/baraka_5_big.jpg

By the way, code and img tags do not seem to work here, contrary to the “formatting options” stated below. How do I post images inline if I can't use html?
Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Click here to download the source files. [1.6 MB]

If somebody has a better idea than this, I’m game.

salaam—
paul

Saad Abulhab's picture

Salam Paul

>> Arabic is even more flexible than I imagined!

This is exactly the point: Arabic is very adaptive and flexible, let us not limit it by rigid rules or styles. I am finishing up a family of fonts for Jazm , the pre-Islamic ancestor of modern Arabic script, just to illustrate how the history of the script is a crucial part of its present and future. I will share sample of if soon.

>>I have a suggestion for everybody…

Good suggestion.

-Saad

Vladimir Tamari's picture

Tom, I am now discovering various aspects of Tasmeem. With its use, one is given various options for adjusting word spacing, dot and vowel positioning, and choosing variant shapes for a word, for example a regular beh or an elongated one. Its very nice. While Tasmeem also has a 'mind of its own' after all it is an intelligent-font technology, it allows the user to interact with it to produce the desired effect. OT type is a 'take-it-or-leave-it' matter- the inputted text is exactly as the designer has made it, no more and no less.

Paul, your suggestion and example of posting graphic samples of what we are talking about is spot on. To post an image online use the 'Insert Image' link. I am not sure what inline means! Keep up your interesting and perceptive feedback. Of the three examples you gave for بركه للصلب Nadine's Frutiger works best because it matches the logo and the Latin in style. It is well designed and belongs to the same genre of Arabic 'sans-serif' styles that now has many examples, including my forthcoming AlQuds font, also with round dots.

In the image below, I will try to illustrate some responses related to the wonderful discussions above. In the early 1960's I read Eric Gill's book on typography and designed my AlQuds lettering to make an Arabic font along the same lines as his Gill sans-serif. Matchmaking! Yes I must admit it could be described as such. More than that Gill himself lived and worked in Jerusalem, so I missed meeting him only by a couple of decades and may well have consulted him had I done so! But the way I went about it was to keep Gill's designs in the back of my mind while I researched early Koranic Arabic calligraphy, newspaper fonts, the handwriting of children, modern calligraphy and many other influences to arrive at what I felt was the simple generic shape of Arabic letters. The modern embodiment of AlQuds is monoline, while Gill's glyphs have the typical Roman variation of thickness.

Saad, I recently designed a full Latin to match AlQuds's style and its six weights, so that would be an example of matchmaking in the other 'unsucking' direction to use your terminologhy :) having the Latin match the Arabic. In the image it is easily seen that Gill's is the superior font, but my AlQuds Latin makes up for its shortcomings by matching the Arabic in overall height, thickness and the orthogonal line endings. I also designed the Indic and Arabic numerals to match the corresponding languages in my font.

In the colored text I illustrate the point that first made me react against Huda's Matchmaking project. In the images khtt published, Latin text's x-height had horizontal guidelines within which the Arabic letters were fitted. Arabic has a potential in-built superiority over Latin in that visually each Arabic word is different from the other in its word-form. Latin is boxed-in within basically rectangular boxes that look much alike. The colored outlines show how the top part and bottom parts of the Arabic have a jagged outline indicating some hints of which letters are there, while the Latin outlines are just a uniform un-individualized pattern except in a few instances. I wrote about this word-shape aspect in 1974 in this article http://www.khtt.net/article-2603-en.html .

In the Arabic matched to Frutiger almost each letter tries to fit within a horizontal line even lower than the Latin x-height; for example the dal is smaller than usual and the initial tooth of the seen reaches upwards to the same height. Let us not throw away the inherent legibility advantage of connected Arabic words in the name of modernization, Westernization and globalization.

Nadine I hope you will not take my views amiss; and I really look forward to seeing the results of your Arabic legibility research. Good luck.

Lastly I must admit that my cartoon reflects the envy of an old man who had to proofread text in downtown Beirut amid the smoke and smell of molten lead cast by Linotype machines, and who had to use Rotring pens and white ink on paper to painstakingly draw his letters and correct them, and to wait months to wait for an answer to a renown Japanese font designer on how the challenges of modern printing were met there. An envy of Huda's generation with access to Fontlab, Illustrator and allied font-making software that makes the creation of a 'new' font and its publication and sale a matter of a few mouse-clicks! This is wonderful and opens up a world of possibilities, but I sincerely feel that we must be the more critical and discriminating in designing, judging and using Arabic fonts.

Benham, I appreciate your perceptive comments on Arabic-related fonts, but must you even mention the Turkish disaster that overtook the Arabic script there?! :)

Aziz, with flowers
_________________
Vladimir Tamari
Homepage: www.ne.jp/asahi/tamari/vladimir/
Arabic lettering: www.khtt.net/person-2306-en.htmlari/vladimir

Vladimir Tamari's picture

If the reason for typefaces to be kept “simple” is restrictions of the technology, then something went terribly wrong. Technology should be gentle and allow for whatever may make sense. And whether designers prefer simplified or complex designs should be entirely driven by their design visions, not by technology or by their ability or inability to master it. With OpenType, I fear that often it is indeed the latter than determines design.

Karsten - This is very important. As an example, one reason I simplified AlQuds is to abridge the number of metal type shapes needed for Arabic. With computers this does not matter any more. However, perhaps due to the influence of Latin Sans-Serifs, simple Arabic is in fashion again, and it has an important place in education, for example to help wipe out the shameful illiteracy in many parts of the Arab world and beyond. I say 'again' because square Kufi is such a simplification, centuries old! Can you please explain the difference between ACE and Tasmeem in a bit of detail?

Benham can you please provide a sample image of the Latin and Arabic you referred to in your interesting discussion on vertical spacing?

AtoZ's picture

"How do I post images inline if I can’t use html?"

Here's one work around that I've found for "inline" images:

When you add an image (using the "Insert Image" button), by default the image is placed at the end of your post. However, if you click on the "Preview comment" button, and then scroll down to the editable text window, you can cut the link to the image and then paste it (again in the editable text window) where ever you wish it to appear in your comment.

It's a bit of a nuisance to have to do this, but it's better than nothing.
 
         ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
         When going from A to Z,
         I often end up At Oz.

behnam's picture

>>Benham can you please provide a sample image of the Latin and Arabic you referred to in your interesting discussion on vertical spacing?

Sorry Vladimir. I just discovered this thread had a second page!
You can go to http://wiki.irmug.org/index.php/X_Series_2 and pick any font. They all follow the same concept of magnification between Arabic and Roman. Some with more success than the others, in terms of visual harmony.
As you know, I'm not a designer and visual harmony is something I'm improving over time. But the visual magnification of all of them follows the same concept I described.
The font I was referring to in my discussion is XB Zar which to me it has the best 'standard look' for a Persian text. (the site above has XB Zar as default font) But it was one of my first fonts and the harmony is not as good as some others. But the picture below is of my latest font, XB Kayhan. As I said I'm not a designer. My main concern about these fonts is compatibility with Mac platform and language coverage. For Mac platform, I have to add AAT. I also add characters to support languages of Iran and neighbouring. I thought Afghani people will be too busy for a while to have time to make fonts for themselves. So I cover quite a few languages.
In the picture of Kayhan (with its different faces) I mixed a news from BBC in Persian and English. I think that should give you an idea.

AzizMostafa's picture

The end of Arabic Typography + Calligraphy:
http://typophile.com/files/Rayhan.pdf
http://typophile.com/files/BetterArabicAdobe.pdf
Sketch it and MaryamSoft.com will re-do it, however complex.
Thanks Behnam with Flowers
http://typophile.com/node/48495

Vladimir Tamari's picture

That is very nice behnam. I looked at some glyphs in Kayhan and it is very solidly and elegantly constructed. The Latin-Arabic balance in size and style is excellent. This is so in the outline and shaded display fonts more than the small text font I wonder why - probably because the added textures and stylization add an extra level of uniformity. It is very generous to provide these fonts as freeware! I notice that the spacing is very tight; as Aziz once stated 'the tighter the better'.

Aziz - the sample you provided is beautiful - how was it made from a technical point of view?

AzizMostafa's picture

> ... how was it made from a technical point of view?

Impossibly easy way! This might help:
http://fontforge.sourceforge.net/source-build.html

> ... as Aziz once stated ’the tighter the better’.

Personally, I:

1. always try to be accurate when quoting:
http://typophile.com/node/46166#comment-283452

2. never forget to acknowledge others works:
http://typophile.com/node/46166?page=2#comment-292120

3. like to exchange flowers with hard-working Typophiles

Vladimir Tamari's picture

OK Aziz the quote should have been "The tighter, the nicer?!". I have installed FontForge on Linux Ubuntu on a PC, but the screen keeps flickering at an uncorrectable 60 Hz so I have not used it. How do you compare FF with FLS?
おはな と

AzizMostafa's picture

Follow the contributions by Khalid Hasani here:
http://graphics4arab.com/showthread.php?t=903
If you understand Arabic, Good luck
If not, just follow the links highlighted with Flowers

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