Typeface Review

Greta Arabic

Reviewed by Wael Morcos on May 9, 2016

Arabic typography has had less than a rosy relationship with technology, which has long evolved with no serious consideration for non-Latin scripts. Things are slowly changing, but the conse­quences of the lack of Arabic typo­graphic palettes are deeply felt whenever designers need to make type-related decisions. Expanding the typographic vocabulary is necessary to be able to fashion the nuances of a sophisticated modern visual language.

The Greta Arabic type system does just that. It is the companion to a humanist sans serif typeface modul­ated by the movement of the broad-nib pen. By comparison, Arabic type is still close to the calligraphic tradition which is also based on the broad-nib pen. Designer Kristyan Sarkis used this shared characteristic to develop a modern interpretation of the Naskh style while implementing careful detailing in every letter. The contrast in the letter ‘o’ mirrors the loops in the ‘waw’ and ‘feh’. The variation in the ‘teeth’ structure and angles differs from the vertical strokes in the Latin, but is necessary to retain the rhythm and structure of Arabic.1 By addressing these issues, the typeface strikes a perfect balance between written letters and drawn letters, and between a considered Naskh and a Latin sans serif.

While the Latin was originally conceived as a system of related styles (a concept pioneered by Adrian Frutiger with his typeface Univers, designed in 1954), the idea of weights and extended/compressed proportions does not exist in Arabic. In fact it is the size of the pen alone that controls both the thickness of the stroke and the dimensions of the Arabic letter. In this respect, Greta Arabic is novel in that it pushes the letters outside of their expected widths. One example of this novelty is maintaining the triangularity of the loops even in extremely compressed spaces. Another one is increasing the heavier weights’ contrast and finding new ways to redistributing the darkness while maintaining appropriate optical sizes.

Greta Arabic is the largest Arabic type system to date, with thirty-nine fonts drawn in ten weights ranging from hairline to black, and four proportions from the compressed to the extended. This versatile toolbox gives designers the unprecedented ability to fine-tune their choices and create a visual landscape where structure and hierarchy go hand in hand. Still, the most interesting aspect of Greta Arabic is that it exposes the flexible anatomy of contemporary Arabic letterforms while maintaining readability, even in extreme proportions.

Notes

  1. “Tooth” belongs to the anatomy of Arabic letters; teeth indicate any of the short upward strokes.

After receiving his BA in Graphic Design from the Notre Dame University (Lebanon), Wael Morcos joined the branding and design department of SAATCHI Beirut. Meanwhile, his interest in Arabic typography got him involved in the Typographic Matchmaking projects where he teamed up with Dutch type designers to collaborate on designing bilingual typefaces. Wael received his MFA in Graphic Design from the Rhode Island School of Design and is currently living and working in NYC.

Wael has been named Print Magazine’s 15 under 30 and was named a Young Gun by the Art Director’s Club.

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