Gill Sans Arabic

catimo's picture

Hello there,
does anybody know if the Gill Sans family now includes an Arabic version ?
Know for sure it has been/is being worked on, but can't seem to find it in any of the fontshops ...

hrant's picture

Well, Gill himself once made an Arabic (during a sojourn in Egypt) but: it wasn't meant to match Gill Sans; and it was somewhat freaky so was never published. A while back* there was an article about it (embarrassingly called "Gill Sands") in Print magazine (in which the dunces actually managed to put one of the illustrations upside-down).

* I just checked - it was exactly 14 years ago.

hhp

quadibloc's picture

I remember that Eric Gill made a rather freaky Hebrew that was published... but this post reminded me of a Peanuts cartoon with the punchline "How can a hula hoop be hi-fi?" - in this case, the question is, how can an Arabic be Gill Sans?

Of course, for most practical purposes, putting in a generic Arabic typeface as part of a Times Roman or Arial typeface works to allow the characters to be displayed - and, thus, there is no real need to truly capture the spirit of Gill Sans in the Arabic portion of the font. Although that might still be a thing for a type designer to attempt - but such a typeface would presumably be sold separately and cost extra, as it probably should.

hrant's picture

His Hebrew was a few notches freakier than the Arabic. It's on the order of the cra... stuff in Schonfield's book.

I think it's possible to make any sensitive non-Latin of any font - it's just that most people wouldn't have the eye to see what's really going on. That's just the nature of the beast. In fact not unlike how most people think Georgia is a big Times.

hhp

Té Rowan's picture

Oh? And here Ah sat ova mah cuppa and thot Georgia wuz a kyoot Modern.

quadibloc's picture

And because it had oldstyle figures (but they got the 1 wrong for the sake of protecting the typographically illiterate from confusion), I thought it was some kind of a hideously deformed Garamond... or an awkward grafting of oldstyle features on a Century Expanded-like base. But those aesthetic sins could be excused as it was a passable font designed to be readable on low-resolution displays.

ahmedelmalah's picture

Hello, I created Gill Sans Arabic Version for my Company

ahmedelmalah's picture

Here it is

hrant's picture

Would you like a critique?

hhp

Martin Silvertant's picture

If he doesn't, I would love to hear one. Not fair, but you peaked my curiosity. Particularly considering my first thought after reading the initial post was "how the hell can you turn Gill Sans into an Arabic script and have its idiosyncrasies translated appropriately?".

quadibloc's picture

Um, that would be piqued "my curiosity".

Martin Silvertant's picture

Thanks for telling me, because I never even knew that word existed. I've always used 'peaked' in that context.

hrant's picture

To me the "secret" of translating a typeface's idiosyncrasies (better: characteristics) across scripts is to avoid the facile migration of formal shapes (which very rarely works, and often results in cultural damage) and focus instead on figuring out what those shapes evoke in the source culture and migrate those to shapes that evoke similar things in the target culture.

hhp

Martin Silvertant's picture

It seems a big challenge to do as you say. Translating these characteristics to Cyrillic and Greek seems doable. Hebrew seems more difficult already. I wouldn't know where to begin with Arabic.

What if you discover that certain shapes just don't translate well to the other culture? Is there something you can do or would you have to give up at this point, or just make a generic translation?

hrant's picture

Deadlines and confused clients can certainly cause one to design something not to be proud of... Barring those things, as a rule it's possible to translate any "feeling" since humans anywhere all feel similar things.

BTW there's actually a hidden risk when designing something close to Latin, like Cyrillic or Greek: you feel more justified doing a straight formal migration. But something like Trajan does not evoke in its forms the same things to a Russian or a Greek; so for example its "A" should not be identical between those scripts. The idea of "cognate shapes" (as put forth by John Hudson for examples) is a red herring. In contrast when you're doing a totally different script (like Arabic) the disjoin is so obvious that it forces you to think more deeply.

hhp

Maxim Zhukov's picture

But something like Trajan does not evoke in its forms the same things to a Russian or a Greek.

It does, at least to a Russian.

<…> its “A” should not be identical between those scripts.

It should, at least between the Latin and the Cyrillic glyph sets.

Martin Silvertant's picture

Barring those things, as a rule it's possible to translate any "feeling" since humans anywhere all feel similar things.

Similar, but not the same. I find it hard to imagine that an Arabic script Gill Sans brings up the same feelings and associations as the Latin Gill Sans does. The scripts inherently bring up different feelings. You might as well say sans and serif bring up the same feelings because they both have stems. Even Latin will bring up different feelings depending on which language you use. I honestly think it's impossible to perfectly translate the feeling of a Latin script to an Arabic script or vice versa.

But this is interesting though, because although the same feelings just don't translate, it does have to conjure up part of those feelings. Possibly we can't even speak of feelings here. Is it a more rational approach perhaps to bring the two in correlation with each other? I suppose it needs just a few key elements which help you connect the two scripts, rather than wanting to have them speak to you in the same way on an individual basis.

so for example its "A" should not be identical between those scripts.

And yet it is. What should be different?

hrant's picture

Maxim: that was pretty fast. :-)
To me, since Latin users and Cyrillic users are necessarily different in terms of their "visual language background", any formal identicalness is a lost design opportunity.

I find it hard to imagine that an Arabic script Gill Sans brings up the same feelings and associations as the Latin Gill Sans does.

Well, if you do apply formal congruence between the two scripts, I certainly agree they bring up different feelings – and that's actually my point. What I'm advocating is making new shapes in the Arabic that evoke to Arabic readers what Gill Sans tends to evoke to Latin readers.

And yet it is.

Almost always, yes. But it doesn't have to be: look at the "Y" shapes in Adobe's Sava.

What should be different?

I don't have nativity in Cyrillic so it's hard for me to know offhand, but in the case of the "A" for example I would say the two main factors are width, and height of the bar. In the latter especially it should be possible to establish whether a higher bar or a lower bar evokes to Cyrillic users what Trajan evokes to Latin users.

hhp

quadibloc's picture

Since Times Roman came in special versions for German and French, that capital "A" maybe should look different in Russian or Greek should not be too hard to accept.

While only native readers of those languages could really decide what is appropriate, a guess, a glimmering, might be possible from looking at what is popular in those languages. In the case of Russian, it seems that typefaces in the Modern classification (akin to Bodoni and Scotch Roman) were popular to nearly the exclusion of Transitional or Oldstyle faces, whereas in the Latin alphabet world, Transitional (like Baskerville or Times Roman) and Oldstyle (Garamond, Bembo, Caslon) were much more popular.

In the case of Hebrew, I've heard that the Frank - Ruhl face was so popular as to be Israel's equivalent to Times Roman - to me, that face looks, visually, like a Scotch Roman, while the "Siddur" type of face is more like Times Roman or some other comfortable Transitional or Oldstyle.

For Greek, sans-serif faces seem to have a greater level of popularity for text use; this is not surprising to me, since it seems to me that they better avoid the tension between capitals that are like Roman capitals and lower-case that is like script or italics (even if it isn't sloped Porson-style).

Martin Silvertant's picture

What I'm advocating is making new shapes in the Arabic that evoke to Arabic readers what Gill Sans tends to evoke to Latin readers.

It almost sounds easy. I suppose one would have to exaggerate certain strokes, but then I would worry it would change the meaning of the script or just look bad. Even when done by a native speaker, I imagine there would be severe limitations. But then this is largely speculation from my part. I'm curious how restricted we are, and if it could lead to innovation if we were to go beyond those restrictions. For example, the Arabic script is so alien to me that if I were to design a typeface for it, it would probably feature strange deviations one might argue make the typeface terrible, while others might say I've done something refreshing they haven't thought of yet. I would be curious about these kind of loose interpretations. It requires a lot of insight to get a script right, but that very insight is also what restricts you. Anyway, this is a bit of a different matter.

Almost always, yes. But it doesn't have to be: look at the "Y" shapes in Adobe's Sava.

Do you mean the flying bird-like character?

AzizMostafa's picture

Martin Silvertant > ... if I were to design a typeface for it, it would probably feature strange deviations one might argue make the typeface terrible, while others might say I've done something refreshing they haven't thought of yet.

@ It is the strange deviations that is refreshing to me. Go Go Go!
http://typophile.com/node/120811

Martin Silvertant's picture

For some reason I never even thought about how many letters Arabic might have. Can you speak of letters here? It's very nice to get some insight into the system.

Can you illustrate what kind of strange deviations you're employing there? As I'm not familiar with the script, I have no insight into what's strange, and to which extent it could be perceived as either beautiful/creative/refreshing or just plain odd or sacrificing functionality or possibly undermining historical… I don't know what word to finish that sentence with—historical conventions I suppose.

hrant's picture

Arabic has 28 letters (not counting extended letters use by other languages, such as Farsi) most of which have four forms (some only two) depending on the position in the word. Some people think that Arabic is in fact even more complex than that – that it relies on complex ligation to be authentic.

if I were to design a typeface for it, it would probably feature strange deviations one might argue make the typeface terrible, while others might say I've done something refreshing they haven't thought of yet.

Indeed the non-native has an interesting and useful role to play: naïve invention. Like how vernacular lettering can end up informing formal typography. That's why when I'm hired as a consultant for Armenian type design by non-natives I prefer to let them first experiment, based on their instincts. Interesting things come out! On the other hand, when it comes time for me to apply my native expertise they have to be open to my confirmation or rejection of certain innovative features. Too often non-natives don't accept their limitations, sometimes resulting in actual cultural damage to vulnerable writing systems.

hhp

Martin Silvertant's picture

Too often non-natives don't accept their limitations, sometimes resulting in actual cultural damage to vulnerable writing systems.

I feel there's an even bigger sentiment at play, where one is skeptical and dismissive of figures of authority on a certain subject. I would always emphasize the importance of skepticism, but it's frustrating when you've done years of research on a subject and you get quickly dismissed just because the other person doesn't have a similar insight to verify the truth of what you say.

For example, yesterday I was having dinner at my dad's place and there was a printed manual from some digital switch for my dad's model train tracks by digirail. I noticed that the digirail logo uses Helvetica, the copyright notice on the left of it is set in Univers and they're using Arial for titles and such. I turned over the page and they're using Calibri on the inside. How can you make sense of this at all? I shared my frustrations and my dad was the only one who engaged with my story at all, but he was very dismissive of its importance. "Who would even see that?" I don't think that's even the point, is it? There is just no rationale behind it at all. That's my main objection. I had to tell him how they would have to pay for several licenses to make use of all these fonts—which as he said, no one else would see—before he understood the importance at all. He often dismisses my knowledge as being important and ascribes it to my autistic obsessions. That might very well be, but that doesn't take away the fact that some people are doing crazy things without any rationale behind it. That's absolutely my biggest frustration in life; the lack of logic behind so many things in my direct environment.

hrant's picture

Much dismissal of native advice stems from the –admittedly essential– artistic element of any design activity. The artist in a designer can fall prey to hubris.

BTW tell your dad that most type designers are not autistic but would have been just as obsessive! :-)

hhp

quadibloc's picture

Well, one can say that Arabic has 28 letters, just as one can say that Hebrew has 22 letters. Yes, they're all consonants. But the writing system isn't a full-fledged abugida, like Indic scripts or Ethiopic, since vowels are only an optional annotation.

Too often non-natives don't accept their limitations, sometimes resulting in actual cultural damage to vulnerable writing systems.

Indeed, that has happened. But not all non-Western writing systems qualify as vulnerable. Occupying powers, and missionaries giving people their first writing system have the power to cause trouble.

And the appeal of the Western/U.S. media can lead to people doing it to themselves. But we also shouldn't underestimate the resilience of traditions.

Thus, if Koreans want to do a Fraktur-ish version of their script for a heavy metal record jacket, it's not likely to stunt the growth of their writing system. They can be allowed to have fun.

hrant's picture

Actually Arabic's three vowels are not optional when in their "long" form.

But not all non-Western writing systems qualify as vulnerable.

Certainly true.
The ideal balance between innovation and tradition depends mainly on the degree of vulnerability. Although paradoxically, there can be no cultural survival based only on tradition.

hhp

quadibloc's picture

Ah, so Alif, for example, is a long vowel - not a consonant (glottal stop) as I thought.

hrant's picture

The "a", "ee" and "oo" sounds have long forms that are always marked and short forms that are optional (although sometimes crucial for understanding).

hhp

hrant's picture

It almost sounds easy.

Really? To me it's the biggest challenge in type design. Well, barring the final emancipation of the white.

hhp

Martin Silvertant's picture

I wasn't implying it's in fact easy. It almost sounded easy the way you phrased it. I was implying a contrast with the reality of it.

AzizMostafa's picture

Hrant > Arabic has 28 letters (not counting extended letters used by other languages, such as Farsi)
Quadibloc > one can say that Arabic has 28 letters, just as one can say that Hebrew has 22 letters.

@ Arabic has not more than 19 letters covering all that used by Farsi, Jawi and other languages?!
http://typophile.com/files/QB3.3.1.pdf

Martin Silvertant > Can you illustrate what kind of strange deviations you're employing there?

Ask http://www.linotype.com/6732/arabic.html why they dismissed my fonts?!
http://typophile.com/files/YS-Aziz_1.pdf
Another example for what you have said?! > ... it's frustrating when you've done years of research on a subject and you get quickly dismissed just because the other person doesn't have a similar insight to verify the truth of what you say.

Martin Silvertant's picture

Ask http://www.linotype.com/6732/arabic.html why they dismissed my fonts?!

Why ask Linotype when you could tell me? Besides, I asked what kind of deviations you're employing; not why Linotype dismissed your fonts.

Martin Silvertant's picture

Also, I'm curious if the Arabic script has the equivalent of the colon, semicolon, dashes etc. Does it have a need for it?

AzizMostafa's picture

> Besides, I asked what kind of deviations you're employing; not ...

@ Well, Linotype, Fontlab and other type foundaries still do not recognize the fallacy of the Arabic mark-positioning notion that need to be constantly deviated as I said here:
http://typophile.com/node/82934

> Also, I'm curious if the Arabic script has the equivalent of the colon, semicolon, dashes etc. Does it have a need for it?

@ Yes, it does?!

hrant's picture

Aziz, I think it would be useful to answer questions more directly.

hhp

Martin Silvertant's picture

Aziz, can you show the difference in pictures?

@ Yes, it does?!

I'm asking because I've never seen it. Do they use the same symbols?

AzizMostafa's picture

Hrant > I think it would be useful to answer questions more directly.
Martin Silvertant > can you show the difference in pictures

@ At you service with flowers

hrant's picture

Thank you.
What are the superscript numbers with parentheses?
And what's that upside-down comma in the Latin?

hhp

quadibloc's picture

Arabic has not more than 19 letters covering all that used by Farsi, Jawi and other languages?!

Most references, at least in English, correctly or incorrectly, treat ba (ب), ta (ت), and tha (ث) as three different letters, jim (ج), ha (ح), and kha (خ) as three different letters, and so on. Even though the difference between them consists only of dots and the like, they're not thought of as diacritics.

That's why I had said 28 and not 19.

hrant's picture

Historically the dots were actually vowels applied to a base. But that's material for a museum, not living people.

hhp

hrant's picture

I just ran into the perfect example of what NOT to do:
https://www.behance.net/gallery/4790859/Khawaja-Typeface-Arabic-Myriad-Pro

hhp

AzizMostafa's picture

Quadibloc > Most references, at least in English, correctly or incorrectly, treat ba (ب), ta (ت), and tha (ث) as three different letters, jim (ج), ha (ح), and kha (خ) as three different letters, and so on... That's why I had said 28 and not 19.

@ That depends on how you look at it, optimistically or pessimistically?!
Arabic has 28 leters or 19 letterforms.
Latin has 26 letters or 52 letterforms.

Hrant > What are the superscript numbers with parentheses?

@ Hindi Footnotes followed by full stop and comma kerned into one single glyph.

Hrant > And what's that upside-down comma in the Latin?

@ Arabic Footnote followed by comma kerned into one single glyph.

quadibloc's picture

I just ran into the perfect example of what NOT to do:

It certainly seemed like that, based "100%" on the curves of Myriad Pro in Latin. But it was designed by one Mahmoud al-Khawaja, not by Joe Smith.

A native user of the writing system might know how much borrowing from external sources he can get away with, while one without that advantage needs to hew closely to the established tradition.

hrant's picture

Sadly, and as John Hudson once made me come to terms with, more often than not Latinization is carried out by natives!* This is because many non-Westerners have an over-riding desire to become more Western, and they're too cavalier with their culture. Couple that to a shallow understanding of how visible language really works, and you get Frankerstein fonts like this one.

* Especially those who have spent some time in the West, and have developed an emotional attachment. Note that Alkhawaja studied at Savannah Collage of Art and Design, and claims to be part of US culture as well as that of his native Jordan.

I have nativity in Arabic myself, and harbor some healthy mistrust of Western influence on other cultures. In addition for many years now I've been looking deeply at formal relationships of writing systems. To me this is a clear case of inviting cultural colonialism.

The best letter to look at there is the و (waaw) which has a spur at its top for absolutely no reason other than to look more Western at all costs.

hhp

quadibloc's picture

I don't think that native users of a script can do no wrong. But if someone who was not a native user did something like that, without even a precedent to go by, for a script as different from Latin as the Arabic script is, that would be absolutely idiotic - thus, "the perfect example of what not to do". Done by a native script user, it is merely highly questionable.

hrant's picture

I would agree... although doesn't being a native make it less excusable?

hhp

quadibloc's picture

It may make it less excusable, assuming there is something to be excused.

Certainly the most startling letter in it was the waaw, as it looks 'way too much like a (single-story) lower case "g" - but then, if one was not familiar with the Latin script, that wouldn't be obtrusive for that reason.

In the case of stuff like heavy metal Korean, what's happening is that users of a non-Western script wish to quickly appropriate the wealth of display typeface options that the Latin alphabet has built up over years. Advertisers with products to introduce and ad campaigns to begin... can't wait for the natural and organic evolution of a script.

The glitz and glamor of our wealthy Western lifestyles has beguiled the rest of the world in many respects, and to expect the rest of the world to live simple lives in poverty so they can remain quaint and picturesque for our sake is unreasonable. People want to survive, to thrive, to have fun. So they jump at things that advance their personal interests, with little thought of the long-term impact on values like cultural survival.

hrant's picture

There's most definitely something to be excused. Like an Arab teaching his kids to speak Arabic like an American.

Who's not familiar with the Latin script? And the thing is explicitly a companion to Myriad. Plus in any case it's more noise than data.

The glitz and glamor of our wealthy Western lifestyles has beguiled the rest of the world in many respects

Something I've expressed often.

to expect the rest of the world to live simple lives in poverty so they can remain quaint and picturesque for our sake is unreasonable.

Nobody should expect them to live in poverty. That's exactly why we should fight cultural impoverishment. When we become too similar, by losing ourselves, that's a loss for everybody. Except corporations...

I'm no fan of traditional calligraphic Arabic type. But let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

hhp

Martin Silvertant's picture

You know, I'm not familiar with the Arabic script and so I actually don't see anything wrong with the Arabic Myriad Pro. It looks somewhat forced into the geometric construct of the Latin script, but then I think that's the charm; to have a minimalist, geometric Arabic script. What do you feel should have been handled differently here? Could someone perhaps draw up a sample with a letter as you think it should have been designed as opposed to what Myriad Pro in the sample is now?

hrant's picture

Just look at Adobe's own Myriad Arabic (a design that's not slavishly traditional) which actually came out a year before Alkhawaja's work. I guess he wasn't satisfied by a culturally authentic rendering.

hhp

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