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Type Research Diary — Snippets of a paper

"At the point of these interviews, to paraphrase one interviewee, there is a deep split in the Arab persona. A part of it is the proud heir of an ancient culture, deeply rooted in religion and tradition. The other part of it is keenly aware of the occident and the lifestyle generally associated with it: freedom of expression, wealth and ease of life, sexual liberation and rationalism are terms, which while expressed differently, form a great part of the narrative about Europe and America."

"When setting type in Latin script, it is possible to set a language you do not know as the letters are mostly separate, standing on their own and do not take on specific forms depending on their position. Latin type includes ligatures, yet they are mostly used for ornamental purposes and handwriting. Arabic type consists of ligatures, interrupted by spaces after certain letters, both in and writing and in type. It is also written from right to left."

"The language has also adopted many terms from other languages, especially in the fields of technology and communications, incorporating the original term into Arabic grammar while keeping, to a great extent, its original meaning. The evolution is happening rapidly, almost daily, as the technologies that brought with them the necessity for this new vocabulary spread and become more affordable."

"Credibility begins with understanding. Demonstrating this understanding takes many forms: Logos are adapted, names are changed words take on unexpected connotations, not to mention shapes."

"The food brands again, are disregarded in favour of local brands due to pricing, not availability. Several imitation brands that quite replace the original in taste and function. They are not considered luxuries, rather the brand alternative to the cheaper priced generic product."

"Humour is also frequently used as a medium, such as an ad for Aiwa, a Mobinil mobile plan, in which all Egyptian stereotypes are assembled to sing about the virtues of the plan. Interestingly, while the characters were readily identified as Egyptian, the way the commercial was shot and scored was perceived to be western by my German interlocutors. My Arab interviewees however, found the same spot representative of the Arabs capacity to make fun of themselves. They were also of the opinion that this spot would appeal to the broadest audience, which it did. It was a cause of much mirth every time it was shown, and remains as such."

"An advertising campaign that was very well appreciated by an Egyptian audience, to the point of becoming a viral success, was that of the Egyptian TV channel Melody Tunes. The spots mix humour with music with local flavour, resulting in a self-confident, ammusing approach to advertising a channel of western pop music in the Middle East. The protagonists, familiar to the target audience, use songs by the Pussycat Dolls, 50 Cent and Shakira to influence everyday situations to their advantage. Their singing is off-tune and heavily accented, showing the viewer that the music and the channel are accessible to a broad audience, even one only slightly familiar with the content presented. The appreciation mentioned above extended to the audience I showed it to on this occasion. Melody Tunes' campaign was perceived to be a product of local culture and global integration at the same time, effectively inviting its audience to enjoy global pop."

"For MS Word, you need an Arabic Support Kit. For Adobe Indesign, a special ME extension is required to set Arabic propperly. Open- or Neooffice supprts Arabic, but a recent experience has shown me how faulty that support is. Pages is one of the few programmes to support Arabic with some consistency."

"An example for a well- executed parallel bilingual design may be that of MICT.org, a German online media organisation, hosting pages Much of their content is presented in more than one script. Their pages were perceived to bewell-balanced and designed, even though they frequently mix more than one language on the same page. "

"// image: New Arabic Fonts //"

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