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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.


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