Thursday, July 1, 2010

The جديد Neue Helvetica

I was thrilled recently to come across Nadine Chahine's article on touting her new Linotype type face, Neue Helvetica Arabic.

Nadine has already given us Arabic interpretations of Frutiger and Palatino (the later of which, developed with Hermann Zapf, won the Certificate of Excellence in Type Design from the TDC). And I say interpretations because, as Chahine notes herself, "One would think that all one has to do is to import the curves of the Latin into the Arabic script structure and the work is practically done. This is not the case."

I've tackled a few bilingual logos and the process of adapting a Latin-service typeface to suit Arabic letter shapes is more than just matching weights, curves, and the oft-tragic transplantation of serifs. Chahine describes the interpretive process, saying, "Look at what Neue Helvetica does as a typeface, how it functions, what visual message does it carry, and then see how to achieve that function and message in Arabic. It is not about how similar the curves are, but how similar the typefaces function. This is at the heart of multi-script type design .... how would you translate an iconic design into a script that defies neutrality? Is this even possible? To make things more complicated, Arabic calligraphic styles are many and some are more suited for headlines, others for text. Helvetica functions on both platforms so the Arabic needs to do so as well."

This is a tremendous addition to designers working in Arabic script. And while the face is currently only available in three weights—Light, Regular, and Bold—I'm hoping the wide variety of neue weights we've become accustomed to in Latin script follows soon in Arabic.

Oh, and on a purely personal note, I love that Chahine's sample images are the Arabic equivalent or lorem lpsum (ابجد هوّز). FB