The Journal

Arabic Typography Bookshelf


Part of my research was to look for books on designing with Arabic type, or designing Arabic type. Well, as expected, the books in the image above are almost all the books available on the subject, maybe couple more. In addition, maybe there are few more but they are not written in English, nor Arabic. 

In all cases, this research was interesting. One finding is that there are not many of them, comparing to the books on Latin/Roman typography and type design. In addition, the 12 books above cost more than $800, excluding the cost of delivery/shipping. So, the average price for a book on Arabic typography is almost $70, which is expensive. Just for the sake of comparing prices, I went to and searched for books on Latin/Roman typography and calculated the accumulated price of 50 books, and the total was $740, which means that the book average price is about $26. So, the problem is not only the lack of resources on Arabic type, its also the fact that they are expensive!

Anyways, in the list below are you can find the books I found on Arabic typography, as they are numbered in the image above. If you are interested in buying any of them, just click on the title: 

  1. Sculpting Type
  2. Arabic Type Design for Beginners
  3. Arabic Font Specimen Book 
  4. Typographic Matchmaking in the City
  5. Typography Matchmaking
  6. Arabic Typography
  7. Arabesque 1
  8. Arabesque 2
  9. Writing Arabic
  10. Talking About Arabic
  11. Cultural Connectives
  12. Arabic for Designers

If you know more books that you would like to add to the list, please let me know! I am looking for more resources!

Typographia Polyglotta

In the interest of communicating effectively and well, we are pleased to present Typographia Polyglotta. This book is a tool to help those who want to set type in different script and language forms to do it with greater ease. It is also a device for imagining: consider how much we can do with a laptop with a polyglot set of fonts on it, safe in the knowledge that the expression of our ideas and visions can reach anyone at any time
— Mark Batty

When I was attending TypeCon14, I came across this small book called Typographia Polyglotta by George Sadek and Maxim Zhukov. It was undergoing the silent auction that was organized as part of the conference. Too bad, I couldn't win the bid, but I ordered it right after I got back home. The first edition of this book was published in 1991. It was a research project of the Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design and Typography at Cooper Union. The study is basically a comparative study in multilingual typesetting. The first edition of this book was concieved and esigned by George Sadek, and Frank Stanton. The book was republished by AtypI in 1997.

The authors basically took a sample text from the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which is originally in English, and used its official translation to compare and contrast the typesetting between 22 different languages: English, Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Dutch, Esperanto, Farsi, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, and Swedish. On the spread, you would see that passage typesetting on right side, and informational page about the language characteristics, and its typesetting on the left page. 

I learned quite a bit from this read. First, At least for me, I think that it made me sure that learning by comparison is a good approach. In addition, I learned that the system of the language typesetting could affect the color/texture of the text a lot. Moreover, It was mentioned in the book that if someone is working on a bilingual design, its always better to start designing with the the language that has less fonts resources. I also learned that If we get the same text in English and translate it into Arabic, chances are that the text in Arabic will be relatively a bit shorter than the English.

This is too personal, but I always loved the Italian language, and I think that its the most beautiful spoken language. The following quote from the book made my day:

Our experiment proves Italian to be indisputably the ‘best-looking’ language of all those that were tested using latin script.

After reading this small book, I felt that there is a connection between this project, and Google Noto Fonts, which I will do further research on it in a later stage. 

First sketches


I've been away for a while. School started and I was out of town for few days. During that time, I was reading a book called Lettering & Type by Bruce Willen and Nolen Strals. Its a small book, simple, and practical in its approach. It tackles three main aspects: lettering, designing type, and designing with type. I am about to finish it. I will write another poster about it once I am done. 

As for my typeface designing process. I started sketching the letter (ع) and I am facing some difficulties. One of the main challenges is that I am planing to design a modern typeface and I don't want to make it too calligraphic. So, when I picked Ijazah or Tawqi calligraphic script as a reference/inspiration, it created more challenges. Because of its very organic flow and nature, its making it harder to simplify it into a modern corporate type face. The original script has a great contrast between the thick and thins and I am planing to minimizing that. 

A very good exercise I learned in Type@Cooper Condensed program is to sketch the skeleton of the letterforms first, and then using different kind of brushes and pens to draw the letter forms based on that skeleton. There are multiple factors that could play a huge role in defining that final letter forms and the contrast between the thick and thins:

  • The tool you are using to draw/write to letterform.
  • The angle and the thickness of that tool.
  • The length of the ascenders, descenders, and their relationship to the x-height, loop height and the tooth heights.
  • The speed and the pace of writing/drawing the letter forms could make a great deal of influence too.

So I am trying to apply different tools to the original skeleton of the letter to get the initial wanted look and feel of the letterforms. 

Interesting: The common understanding of the signature (Tawqi in Arabic) is that its something written or drawn quickly. Yet, the Arabic script (Tawqi) is carefully drawn and astonishing when it comes to aesthetics. 

Cultural Connectives

Cultural Connectives is a about bridging the gap between the Arabic and Latin alphabets
— Rana Abou Rjeily

Oh man! another book in such a short time. Well, this is the kind of book that you can finish reading in couple of hours. Its not that its a bad book or any of that, but it was designed and authored to be read this fast. 

I would say that this book has two main purposes; the first one is a short and quick guide for non Arabic speakers to learn the basic principles of the written Arabic. The other purpose is to show case the font that Rana designed which is called Mirsaal. It is a bilingual font (Arabic & Latin) that come in regular and bold. The Arabic version is based on what the Lebanese architect Nasri Khattar started in 1947 when he invented Unified Arabic. This invention was an Arabic font that is detached, to make it much easier to print using movable type. 

As for the book, as Rana said, its basically to bridge the gap. The book won't teach the reader how to design Arabic type. It is more on how written Arabic works, a bit about Arabic typography, and type design. The language and illustrations in the book are smart, simple and to the point. I believe that the main audience for this book would be non-Arabic speakers and designers who want to learn a bit about it to get familiar of the Arabic typography system. It was a good read and the way it was put together will help me in my thesis project. 

A Good Read


In Things to Know page; I mentioned that do not like to read. I know its wrong, and I am ashamed to say confess, but I can't really remember when was the last time that I actually finished reading a whole book. 

Well, it seems that this is about to change. I've just finished reading Arabic typography: a comprehensive sourcebook by Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFaris which I started about a month ago. I learned a lot about typography in general and Arabic typography/type design in particular. In the book, I got to learn a bit of history, tools, classifications, sources, technological aspects, and many more things. In my opinion, the book does not have enough information to educate the reader about designing the letterforms, yet, I think it was a very good choice to read. It is written in a very simply language, yet reach with information. The book was published in 2001. Obviously, a lot of development occurred since then. If you are into Arabic type design, I highly recommend reading this book.