Something is finally happening in the field of Arabic type design, which has been a sleepy scene for much too long (despite the heroic efforts of Huda AbiFares, to mention one person who has tried to do something about this).
But recently, new stuff has been coming to my attention. The was the Kitabat conference at the American University of Dubai last spring, which brought together some of Arabic Type’s most interesting names. A whole conference just about Arabic type (ok, and calligraphy as well). I was impressed.
Then, just a few weeks ago I made a discovery: Zarqawi font designers.
And just a few days ago, Hussein Naser, my designer colleague at SYNTAX, sent me an email alerting me to the site of Mohamed Hacen.
I looked at the fonts Mohamed is creating and I was simply delighted! The man has several fonts on display, all of which are downloadable as trial-ware. Like the font after initial usage, then pay for it.
This is extremely courageous. Piracy has prevented investment in Arabic type. But while that’s true, the lack of initiative by designers is just as responsible for the dismal state of Arabic type. Now here’s someone who designed a bunch of VERY interesting modern Arab fonts and has put them out there in the open so that people can test them.
Here are some of the font:
So who is Hacen. I was pleasantly surprised to dicover that Mohamed Hacen is a young designer for Mauritania. Wow, this is the first time I visit a web site from that country, let alone a very active type foundry!
At the office, a few of us already have fallen in love with Casablanca, and we’re test driving it on a project. We discovered a few kerning problems (especially in the letter Ra, which does not overlap enough with letters that have ascenders). And we also found that the font’s curves have too many anchor points. But hey, this font is just so promising. I really liked the way its Aleph tapers off at the bottom a bit, reminding me of favorite latin fonts like Meta.
What’s also interesting about Hacen’s work is that his fonts retain some of the original features of Arab writing, while at the same time being thoroughly contemporary. Hacen is clearly very enthusiastic about his work (which is a refreshing attitude), and he promotes many other Arab type designers on his site. One of his fonts, Beirut, pay homage to the city’s publishing heritage.
On his site, Hacen features a badge against the piracy of Arab fonts. I really hope his experiment of spreading his fonts as trialw-ware works out and that there will be enough decent people out there who will actually pay him..
I also hope that we’re seeing the start of an Arab mini-renaissance in type. As the competition of brands increases in the Arab world, companies and publication are starting to realize that a font can be a visual differentiator in the crowded marketplace. That, coupled with the increasing spread of internet usage (which makes digital distribution more viable) will hopefully bring about more people like Hacen who will enrich the diversity of Arab typographic fonts.