Wednesday, 11 April 2012
Our second blog entry focuses on the Nokia Pure Arabic script. Like all the other non-Latin scripts in this project, the Arabic forms follow on from the design principles established by the Latin script. Besides harmonising the visual expressions, we also took into account the usage environments and technical considerations in our decision making process on the look and feel of the typeface.
Whilst sketching out initial ideas for the Arabic typeface design, we researched other brands in similar markets and how they treated their brand translation into Arabic. We were particularly interested in the calligraphic style that was preferred, and how it compared with our own ideas for Nokia Pure.
Our findings from this research showed that mostly Kufic type styles are used, as they resemble the sans serif style closest. This confirmed our view, and that of our Arabic consultant, Professor Rayan Abdullah, that Nokia Pure Arabic should also follow a Kufic direction.
But it wasn’t only aesthetic considerations that led us to think that Kufic is the most suitable type style for our Arabic designs. The strong, almost geometrical, horizontal and vertical modulation of the letterforms lends itself to being applied in digital environments. It lets the letterforms retain a fairly tall mid-line (akin to x-height) which improves the legibility of the script in environments where space is at a premium. The strong horizontal emphasis of Kufic type styles further allows for relatively short ascenders and descenders, making it possible to retain the leading parameters of the Latin type. As Latin characters are often used within Arabic text, for name transliterations for example, Kufic is the ideal partner for a sans serif Latin typeface to maintain a similar texture and tonality when set together.
Designing the Arabic
The Dalton Maag design team, together with our consultant, analysed the Latin forms and their general appearance. Keeping in mind the Kufic lettering style we wanted to achieve, we thought carefully about how to translate the features we identified from our analysis into the Arabic forms. Nokia Pure Latin has a strictness about its forms that was informed by the desire to go back to pure Finnish design. This strictness and simplicity can now be found in the angular details of some letters, the clean continuous baseline of the script, and the round shapes which bear little resemblance to calligraphic traditions, much like their Latin cousins.
The Final Design
As with the Latin font family, there are differences for text and display usage in the Arabic fonts too. In the Latin the difference is primarily in a much tighter letter spacing for large sizes, but the Arabic also has a design variation in a couple of characters. This difference allows for the Arabic to have good legibility at small sizes and on mobile devices, yet in advertisements the design differences create a unique and striking visual expression.
The Arabic script supports a vast number of languages, spoken in many different cultures. We have tried to create a communication tool that is respectful of traditions, and at the same time meets the requirements for functionality.
Nokia have a desire to create a contemporary and unified global visual communication expression for all scripts. This has led us to create a modern interpretation of Arabic for the Nokia Pure font, and we are aware that it may meet with resistance. Although we were happy with the design at the point of delivery, we have made some small changes to individual characters. After initial testing on mobile devices, and feedback from testers, we agreed that by changing some letter shapes legibility would be improved.
Our main consultant for developing the Arabic Nokia Pure fonts was Professor Rayan Abdullah, an Iraqi national who has been working in Germany as a typographer and information designer for over 20 years. His biography, in German, can be found here: http://www.rayan.de/biography.html. We’re extremely grateful for all of his help on this project.