Skip to main content

Type Research Diary — Part 8

What designers forget with regular frequency is that they are not the only ones involved in the production of print and web documents.

The last round of interviews I intend to conduct within the framework of this project, I had the pleasure of sitting down with the people who teach all the students I had been previously talked to. They were able to provide me with the missing links to this project: an Arab perspective on all the arcane branding questions I had been asking for so long, but, more importantly, they were able to give me detailed insight into how Arabic is taught. 

These teachers are experienced in teaching people used to Indo-Germanic (to show off the last bit of dichronic linguistics I remember) languages  a completely different way of dealing with script and speech. Arabic, even by classification, is a different system, whether one thinks about the grammar, the speech, or the way it is writ. 

How to relate a language unrelated to most grammatical and writing systems a European might know is how these people earn their living. As such, they were able to point out some pedagogic issues that would not occur to a design person. Arabic is famous for its curlicued ligatures and setting them in combination with or in contrast to Latin can either be simple, or a pain if you are working with an EU version of most programmes. This much I knew, was however niggled  by the question of how to relate these to an audience who may be unfamiliar with Arabic. 

After a short session with a whiteboard and a few coloured markers, a lot became clear. Clarity having set on, and inspection of the teaching materials ongoing, something else became obvious. Even though, in their own words their books "worked" and although great creativity and ingenuity had gone into the use of MS Word, it was hard to match the Arabic to the Latin. 

from here(and not Akhbar)


A bold Akhbar font, set against Century Gothic, which runs thinnish in regular, working against each other. While the purpose of the document was fulfilled by having the Arabic in the foreground, while the Latin annotations and vocabulary notes fell neatly into the background. It did work, but it was not quite as elegant as it could have been. The content, well-researched and eloquently put , was misrepresented by this combination. 

It is not the worst combination of types I have come across, that honour falling firmly to the Gatt/WTO report, to be found here. It clearly separates the Arabic from the Latin. The arabic is legible. The lines align. It teaches you Arabic. But, again, these people are experienced cheaters when it comes to what they do.

Type aside, we also watched a few advertisements from the Middle East. In them, we found a split between the reality in the country and what was shown in the commercial. That's normal for ads. However, the ones that worked the best with any audience I showed them to were produced for local companies, or by agencies with deeper knowledge of cultures, customs and humour.

Try this:



For some reason, the first twenty-six seconds seem to induce laughter. It is curious.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

IGAF: Lying on Camera // Astounding Armaments

Nizar Qabbani wrote his epic poem "When Will They Announce the Death of Arabs" in 1994.



He was living in London at the time, far from his native Syria, watching the world he had grown up in and represented as a diplomat from afar. America had launched operation Desert Storm- a storm that lasts to this day- two years prior, and marked 1993 with the launch of 23 cruise missiles on Iraq. Qabbani will die of a heart attack in 1998.

In 18 stanzas, he explores the wishes and dreams he once carried, describes, however tribes and nations at war, that believe that secret services (like a cold, or a headache) are part of some heavenly order. He bemoans that the idea of the "Arab Nation" (possibly derived from the Pan-Arabist ideology that was crystallised during the Nasser years) has never come into being. He has been trying to draw a picture all his life, but his crayons have been taken away. He has watched wars- on TV, he has tried to imagine the idea of a peaceful Arab unio…

In Taheyya we Trust - How an Egyptian bellydancer found her posthumous stage in Berlin

“You should have winked at her,” Aida said dismissively, as if such a possibility had been imaginable for someone as timid as I was. Tahia Carioca was the most stunning and long-lived of the Arab world’s Eastern dancers (belly-dancers, as they are called today).
Edward Said, Farewell to Taheyya

My story with Taheyya begins in the summer of 2016, at Bulbuls Caféin Görlitzer Str. in Berlin. It ends two blocks down on Wiener Str 17. 


Bulbuls is a café and art space around my corner that I have grown to like to sit in and drink smoothies (1). He had commissiond us- a crew of Syrian and Egyptian artists, as well as myself, to paint the walls inside the café. El Tenneen (the Dragon) is the one who ended up drawing Sheikh Imam, with the help of Salam Alhassan (known as Salahef/ Turtles) and Sulafa Hijazis (whom we call El Hayya/The Snake’s) beamers’ illumination. The Sheikh sits happily in the place to this day and Crew El-Zoo was born.



Tenneen had the advantage of knowing immediately what he wa…

Two minutes: Love

Love is a big word that has been filled with so many meanings that for me to strain its contours by doing more than writing it out in pretty letters is to do it a disservice. There is much to discover about the content of the word- go out and find it for yourself and fill it with your own meanings, which only experience can give you.

Like religion, discovering love is deeply personal- books and people can help guide you, and give your understanding a foundation and context, but what love ends up being for you cannot be determined by anyone but you.

Maybe we need a new word for love.