The Journal

The First Letterform


I've been working for few days on designing the letter "Ayin" which is (ع) and it means Eye in Arabic. There is another letter that looks and written/drawn exactly like the letter Ayin but with a diacritic dot "Nuqta" above it, forming the letter "Ghyin" which is (غ). 

The thing about Arabic letters that they come in 4 different forms depending on their placement in the word: 

  1. Isolated form
  2. Initial form
  3. medial form
  4. final (ending) form

Its helpful to mention that in some occasions, the final, and the medial form could look completely different than the other forms. 

As for the letterform, I am trying to simplify its strokes. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I don't want the typeface to look too calligraphic. It might not look very modern and geometric though. So, I am trying to have the letterforms more geometric and modern but with a hint of calligraphic style. The counters are spacious. The contrast between the the thins and thicks is not great. Moreover, the descender is not much longer than the loop height.

On the right side of the image above is the current letterform of the isolated, and initial form of the Ayin. I am going to stick to it for now, but I am sure it will go through lots of changes as I go. 

A very critical point I learned, is that the letterform can not be judged on its own. It has to be put next to another letters so you can see how the whole thing is going together. This is what I am going to do next; designing more letters!

Feedback is valuable! Please give some.

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. 

Decision made


I decided what I want to do with the typeface I am going to work on. I am still confused if I should use the word typeface or font. Some one guide me into this please! Its going to to be a headline typeface. It will be modern and conventional. I will draw the letterforms based on the old Arabic calligraphic style: Ijazah or Tawqi' which was developed at the time of the Abassids dynasty. The Tawqi script was used in official signatures scripts. For non Arabic speakers, Tawqi' means signature, and Ijazah means certification. Ijazah/Tawqi' is also known for connecting the final letter of the word to the initial letter of the following word. It was often used for official documents and important references. I always loved this script because of pen flow while writing it. Its not very common as the rest of the main Arabic calligraphic scripts. Its a combination between Naskh and Thuluth which gives it great proportions. I will not design a revival of the script. I will only design the letter forms based on it.


I learned that if I am designing a Roman typeface, I should start by designing the letterforms of the capitals H and O then the lowercase l,n,o, and to get the sense of proportions of the ascenders, descenders, x-height, capital, contrast, and letters width. For Arabic, I learned that I should start with the letters (ع ا س) to get the sense of the ascenders, descenders, loop and tooth heights, contrast, and letters width. So, there is nothing such as x-height in Arabic typefaces. In some Arabic typefaces, there are 2 loop heights. Sometimes, the loop and the tooth heights are the same.

I think, that the typeface I will be working on will end up being a mixture of my handwriting and Ijazah script letter forms skeletons.


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.