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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.