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The 21st Century’s Multilingual Range of Typefaces

Sunday 26 April 2009

The first ever harmonious range of Arabic-Latin (serif and sans serif) typefaces to serve the needs of today’s creative industry. Tanseek has been designed by two professional groups, each expert in its own field.

Designers: Dave Farey, Arlette Boutros, Richard Dawson, Mourad Boutros.

Currently, when Arabic and Latin typefaces are required to be used together, the choices of style are difficult to reconcile. There are no common factors and because the Arabic and Latin alphabets have developed totally independently, the selection, for example, of Arabic and English text to be used together can be totally random - sometimes dictated only by recognition of popular styles that have been used previously, or simply by a well known typeface name.

By their very nature, Latin typefaces have been designed to perform legibly for their exclusive readership and do not relate to, or cater for, other alphabetical forms such as Arabic. The design of the family of Tanseek fonts addresses the sensitive relationship for this specific multilingual use, with careful and deliberate proportions, weights and calligraphic influence in two styles, Modern (sans serif) and Traditional (Roman).

The influence of calligraphy upon Roman typefaces began during the first fifty years of mechanical printing in the Western world over 500 years ago, and was stylised into the familiar letters still used today. The design of the classical Incunabula typefaces by the French and Italian masters such as Nicolas Jenson and Francesco Griffo was based upon the handwriting of the Renaissance period. These developed across the centuries with the improvements in printing, ink and paper technologies to provide examples such as Garamond, Caslon and Baskerville. The modern equivalents, which still have a vestige of calligraphic style and stress, generally described as "Old Face", are Centaur, Times and Palatino and are instantly recognisable as names and styles. Similarly, Gill Sans, Univers, Helvetica and Franklin Gothic are familiar sans serif fonts.

Less well known are the beautiful fonts of Noordzij Bible by Gerrit Noordzij, Euler by Hermann Zapf, and Icone by Adrian Frutiger. These are some of the contemporary fonts that celebrate the designer’s skill as calligrapher and if judged on the basis of amalgamating Arabic and Latin letterforms from their historical and hand drawn inception, they would be far more visually sympathetic for dual Arabic and Latin texts and display.

But even these Roman typefaces were not developed with that particular purpose in mind, whereas the design of the family of Tanseek accepted as its guiding principle and ultimate aim the visual compatibility of Arabic and Latin fonts. It is a reasonable statement that any Roman typeface, be it classical or of modern design, will be discordant when used with a traditional Arabic typeface, simply because they were not designed to work together. Some Arabic and Latin fonts are more compatible than others, but none of them pass the test of the visual relationship between the heights of the letters, the weights of the strokes of the letters or the overall calligraphic appeal of Tanseek as Arabic and Latin designs.

Because of this, it is recommended that Times, Palatino and other classical or contemporary Roman typefaces such as Frutiger and Helvetica be ignored when Arabic and Latin fonts are required to be used together. The family of Tanseek, having four weights of sans serif and Roman to start with, is the solution.

Tanseek is the perfect range for all DTP and creative needs and ideal for all bilingual signage needs.

Signage typefaces generally fall into two categories: first, motorway signs which need to be read and absorbed while in motion, and second, those which are seen at a lower pace of movement when the viewer is walking or stationary. In both cases sans serif typefaces are considered the preferred style.

A great number of sans serif or monoline Latin fonts have been tested and used during the second half of the 20th century in both categories and some have proved more legible and pleasing on the eye than others. The best of these are described as ’Humanist’ rather than ’Industrial’ or ’Block Letter’ from which signage typefaces originated. For example, Interstate and Din are Industrial styles, whereas Gill and Frutiger are Humanist.

Type development and legibility - reading habits - have changed with technology, both at small and large sizes, from book and newspaper reading to signage. Currently ’Humanist’ faces of the 20th century are still adequate but tests have established that a new category of ’Neo-Humanist’ typefaces have additional advantages. These changes are small but important. Signage can be in capitals or lower case, but again tests have proved that for legibility lower case signs are more successful, particularly for directions and information. Capitals are better reserved for commands, such as "DO NOT ENTER".

So it is within the stylisation of lower case letters that legibility or ease of reading can be enhanced and visual improvements can be made. The most recent and best examples can be seen with the typefaces Meta and Tanseek. Tanseek in particular adapts the letters for a continuous flow, for example, the flick or extension on the bottom right hand side of the lower case letters - where permissible - so as to suggest a connection to the following letter. These extensions are known as exit points and can be seen on the letters "a, d, h, i, l, n, u" and so on. There are also letters that are flattened a little and not curved at their exit points, such as the ’e’ which is a very high usage letter. The direction of horizontal terminals, those that lead to the right in Latin typefaces, are also important for smooth reading.

Lastly, a strong element of continuous and uninterrupted reading for signage is the height of the capitals in relation to the ascending letters of the lower case. They should be the same height; otherwise the result is disruptive and discordant.

Tanseek has therefore been designed as a ’Neo-Humanist’ style and will perform better and have a superior legibility factor because of the design features that have been incorporated for the 21st century.

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