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Type Research Diary part IV

And مع السلامة as the course ends. I meet my two volunteers, two young ladies who are prepared to brave me. It's not all that hard.

Selecting a third member of the class, we leave the room to a quiet place where we might talk for half an hour without too much noise in the background. We end up in one of thr noisier student- run cafés that grace the FU (and open at nine, remember that.). This turns out not to matter too much, as the recorder slept in today. Lucky you.

I am lucky in that the three interviewees come from different backgrounds. The ones who have already travelled to Arab countries, those who grew up with a mixed background, those who grew up in the local background… For now their identities must be withheld.

As I try to keep up with furious notes, they introduce themselves. At this stage, there is not much more I can ask of them. In preparation for these interviews I have prepared a sheet of type for them, showing Arabic and Latin script in various constellations — Arabic on top, below, beside the Latin, in addition to subtle variations in typesetting.

This is the beginning of what will hopefully be an enlightening exploration of bilingual typeography, the more practical part of these interviews. My intention is to examine how to set a Latin- Arabic combination for print and for the web in ways that respect the very different traditions even as they are combined into something new, yet legible and pleasant. This unscientific test is to provide me with an entry point, divorced from street signs and bilingual websites. We'll get to those later.

Interestingly enough, opinions are seemingly divided accross gender lines. The female eye seems to prefer to have the arabic script first, justified, followed by the Latin text. Meanwhile, the male eye prefers to have two colums of left- and right- aligned text to skim over and compare. One may wonder briefly what causes this difference in perception, then be reminded that this is the first interview and that a few more opinions will probably emerge before jumping to conclusions.

Feeling like I am about to step through the looking glass, we end the interview, make loose appointments for a second round and go our way.


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