Arabic Script to Type: a Manifesto (version 1)
by Lara Captan & Kristyan Sarkis
It is time for a new era in Arabic Type Design. An era in which the script is the source of typographic information. What we ask for may sound obvious and it is. Understanding the script then moving to type is nowhere near innovative. In Arabic however - contrary to popular belief - this bridge has not yet been made. Throughout the 500 years of existence of Arabic type, we have seen a gradual regression of aesthetics, heavy westernisation of our characters, Latin-based mechanisation and a great loss of the formal and technical competence that was present in the script. While manifestos tend to promote the present, the future and want to break away from the past, we would like to take a step backward and demand a thorough understanding of the architecture of our writing system. In that:
> We advocate research in type and script history to help build typefaces that are conscious of the past, understand the present and evolve into a future that is informed regardless of the designer’s graphic interests, be it: to continue with tradition, to abandon it or to go anywhere in between and beyond.
> We have a desperate need to lay foundations for the design of typefaces, ones that embody the essence of the script. We need to observe, deconstruct and relay the mechanisms that dictate script behaviour. We need theories of proportional systems, contrast behaviour, what is constant and what is style specific in script grammar, where optical compensations take place, how to handle proportions and contrast in general, as well as when moving from hairline to bold, to black… We must experiment with postures, document the effect of extension, condensation and weight change on the letters in diverse settings. The list is endless, the experiments are endless, so why are we not exploring them?
> We call for the study and experimentation with the effect of tools on Arabic, their impact in different applications of type as well as the removal of this effect in letterforms.
> We ask not to stay fixated in tradition but to build from tradition into formal spheres that represent our modern-day cultures.
> We encourage young Arabic type designers to dig deep in their graphic heritage, to understand their visual identities, because they are the ones who will shape the future of local communities and their type design practice.
> We ask the millions of readers of the Arabic script to demand an optimal reading experience as type embodies the knowledge of their people. And since we may not have the power to change the socio-political contexts of the Arabic-scripted nations, we have the responsibility to safeguard their cultural and intellectual production within high-quality shapes of letters that honour and serve their content.
In a few words, to all type designers involved in the field of Arabic type design, we advocate to: Understand the depths of the Arabic script in order to create more informed and more diverse Arabic typefaces.
This manifesto was first published on June 17th 2017 on tptq-arabic's website here.