Typographic matchmaking in the city


The aim was to create good Arabic fonts that would set a benchmark for future developments in the field.

Five renowned Dutch designers were invited, each matched with an Arab designer. Five new Arabic fonts in two weights were designed and developed, and the process was documented in the book Typographic Matchmaking BIS Publishers, Amsterdam, Typographic Matchmaking in the City Building on the successes of the first project, Typographic Matchmaking in the City set out to design both the Arabic and Latin alphabets simultaneously.

The film, directed by Jan de Bruin, was shot on several locations in Amsterdam, Dubai, Sharjah, Pingjum Friesland , and Doha, following the design teams while they traveled, worked together, and presented their work.

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The megalomaniac urban developments in the Arabian Gulf states were impressive for the accompanying optimistic belief in the infallibility of the future. However, the speed at which it was all taking place was unsettling: I felt that contemporary cities needed to bring back that approach to lettering and maybe to take this a step further to respond to the communication needs in multicultural urban environments.

Typographic Matchmaking in the City

It seemed the right moment to create a design research project that attempts to propose a thoughtful point of view for future urban environments and cities that we will feel safe and comfortable living in. Which were the main obstacles you had to overcome?

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There were challenges rather than obstacles. The second challenge was to create the same visual language for two scripts that are structurally very different, but what helped in this project is that we started fresh designing the Latin and Arabic letters at the same time, keeping a very open mind and not worrying too much about conventions of readability because the typefaces needed first and foremost to be monumental and expressive for them to set themselves as much as possible apart from the usual Branding that covers all cities nowadays. The third challenge was how to design typefaces or lettering that enhance placemaking in an already visually congested urban public space.

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The commitment of the participants was crucial in overcoming all the challenges and the end results I am relieved to say are actually highly innovative and unique. How did you chose the artists, designers and architects involved? I had the scope of the project in mind, and then I started researching which designers in the Netherlands and the Arab World could be appropriate to this design problem.

I often choose people based on the work they have produced and their approach to the design problem at hand.

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The second step is to create the groups matching the graphic designers one Dutch and one Arab with an architect or industrial designer. This team building we did in the first workshop and introductory meeting of the project, people actually had choices and I was allowed to have the final say since I knew each designer better than they knew each other.

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I always follow my instincts and I am always prepared to accept that there will be some mismatches or conflicts that need to be negotiated and amended along the way and as the project develops. Eye, the international review of graphic design, is a quarterly printed magazine about graphic design and visual culture. Designers and typographers visiting Middle Eastern and Gulf states are often overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of Arabic scripts.

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Simple street signs, posters and newspapers present a level of calligraphy that we simply do not experience in the day-to-day typographical hubbub of western cities. But as the opportunities to design in Arabic slowly begin to expand, some fairly fundamental issues arise. While both cultures write numerals in a similar way, virtually everything else is different.

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Typographic Matchmaking in the City was a design research project investigating new approaches for bilingual lettering in public space. The project brought. The Typographic Matchmaking in the City project is a design research project investigating new approaches for bilingual lettering and poetic narrative for public.

At the most basic level, they write in different directions. There are few shared typographic measurements and equivalents such as x-heights. In Arabic, letters can be stretched or adapted with multiple ligatures, so the popular digital Arabic font Noori Nastaliq contains more than 20, characters, as opposed to a normal character set of less than in a Latin typeface. There are multiple versions of Arabic letters — depending on whether they are placed at the beginning, middle or end of words — so an Arabic font might only be truly judged once nearly finished.