Tzvi Narkiss - Bringing a Modern Look to Hebrew Type

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Tzvi Narkiss - 1921 to 2010

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Since 1950, freelance designer of books, posters, bank notes, postage stamps, etc. Designed 16 Hebrew typeface families, manufactured in all typesetting technologies available in Israel, including exclusive typefaces for two newly revised Bible editions.

Served as academic consultant to the graphic design course of the Technion, Israel’s Institute of Technology, and as lecturer in Graphic Design and Typography. Served as member of the academic promotion committee at Bezalel, Israel’s major academy of Art and Design, and as a member of the national advisory committee to the Bank of Israel, for the design of new banknotes and coins.

“The first and foremost value for Zvi Narkiss is integrity — artistic honesty in design — and he feels that here he has achieved it.” — writes Misha Beletsky in an essay about Narkiss’ work. The essay is included in the book “Language Culture Type” published 2002 by ATypI and Graphis.

From: Israel
What he does: Type Design, Graphic Design, Book Design

ATypI: Language, Culture, Type, edited by John D. Berry
Bank of Israel: One Hundred New Sheqalim, designed by Zvi Narkiss

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Mr. Zvi Narkiss
Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mr. Zvi Narkiss

The Designer Zvi Narkis is awarded the EMET Prize for his creativity in the design of the Hebrew font, for the design of typefaces for the Hebrew alphabet over a period of fifty years, which made possible the transition from traditional Hebrew fonts to modern types, and for ingeniously combining ancient traditions with modern design concepts in creating the Hebrew type.

Zvi Narkis was born in Rumania in 1921. He immigrated to Palestine in 1944 and settled in Jerusalem, where he attended painting classes with Jakob Steinhardt and Mordechai Ardon. He went on to study graphic design at The New Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. His evident skills allowed him to skip the first academic year, and a year later he was invited to work at the graphics department of the Keren Kayemet LeIsrael (the Jewish National Fund). Between 1950 and 1955 he was chief graphic designer of the IDF's training aids unit, and served as head of the manuals' design unit of the Israeli Air Force.

In 1955 he opened his own graphic design and typography studio, where for fifty years now he has been designing books, exhibitions, stamps, banknotes, coins, posters and emblems. Among his many projects he designed two Bible books for which he created a special typeface – the Horev Bible and the Hebrew University Bible – Jerusalem Crown. He designed the State of Israel's first tourist poster, the IDF pavilion at the First Decade Exhibition (1958), the Victory Medal (1967), the Peace Medal (1977) and some notes for the Bank of Israel.

He specialized in the design of types (fonts), and became the most prolific designer of Hebrew types in the 20th Century. He created Hebrew's most popular sans-serif book type, and over the years he designed fourteen sets of typefaces. The book types he created, bearing his name – Narkis, are most popular and are now commonly used in Israel. He created five of the ten most frequently used typefaces in Israel.

He also served as an academic advisor to the graphic design course at the Technion and as president of the Association of Israeli Designers.

His works were displayed in many publications in Israel and worldwide.

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Israel Postage Stamp: pomegranate

catalog #197, c. 1959
part of the Festivals 5720 (1959) series.

Inscription on missing tab: ''A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates, a land of oil olive , and honey'' Deuteronomy VIII, 8

Stamp depicts Pomegranate one of the seven species mentioned in Bible

Designed by Zvi Narkiss

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2. Israel, 1950s
Designer: Zvi Narkiss
Produced by State of Israel Tourist Department
Courtesy of Skirball Cultural Center

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