Esra : Arabic Helvetica
December 12, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Challenge: To create a modern Perso/Arabic typeface that is inspired by the western cult favorite, Helvetica.
In the west, designers take for granted the convenience of having more than a hundred different typefaces to choose from, many of which are more than decades old. Typefaces such as Badoni, Baskerville, Century and Garamond have stood the test of time and are still very popular today. Among them, Helvetica, a celebrity typeface, has become ubiquitous in western culture. In contrast, typefaces in the East, particularly the Arab world, have limited number of modern typefaces to choose from. Many designers have attempted and collaborated with German type designers to create more typefaces that like Helvetica, are beautiful, modern and legible.
Is the lack of modern typefaces in the Arab world an issue that is deeply rooted in the culture? Does the fact that Arabic/Persian languages are glyph characters contribute to the ability to creating a solution? What challenges have other designers had at attempting to produce a Helvetica Arabic typeface? Has there been any success? Arabic speaking countries and Iran have long history of gorgeous calligraphy, why has that passion not yet translated to the youth through modern typefaces?
The original typeface was called Neue Haas Grotesk, and was designed in 1957 by Max Miedinger for the Haas’sche Schriftgiesserei (Haas Type Foundry) in Switzerland. In 1960 the name was changed to Helvetica (an adaptation of “Helvetia”, the Latin name for Switzerland).
Over the years, the original Helvetica family was expanded to include many different weights, but these were not as well coordinated with each other as they might have been. In 1983, D. Stempel AG and Linotype re-designed and digitized Neue Helvetica and updated it into a cohesive font family. At the beginning of the 21st Century, Linotype again released an updated design of Helvetica, the Helvetica World typeface family. This family is much smaller in terms of its number of fonts, but each font makes up for this in terms of language support. Helvetica World supports a number of languages and writing systems from all over the globe. (Linotype.com)
The second most widely used alphabet writing systems in the world. Unlike western alphabets, Arabic/Perso script is written from the right to the left. The letters also have contextual changes based on where in the word the character falls. The language also has vowels and nunation values. The typefaces that are often compared to Helvetica are; Tahoma-Arabic , Neue Helvetica® Arabic Light by Nadine Chahine, Insan by Ihsan Hammouri and many others.
Click here to check out some gorgeous examples of modern Arabic Typography.
Before beginning my sketches I wanted to look closely at the details of Helvetica. The acenders and decenders, the curves and line weight.
Helvetica has a very distinguishable characteristics that helped me stay true when designing the new typeface. The strokes are very bold and angular. The curved letters have a continuous line weight that allow them to remain relevant to the angular letters.
My initial sketches helped me decide on some important characteristics that the typeface would have. For example, characters such as jiim and ayn, have decenders that are different from meem and raa.
Below is an example of the typeface being using in a design.
Below is my first full iteration of the typeface.