Font Designer – Nadine Chahine

Nadine Chahine

Interview with Nadine Chahine

How did you fall in love with type design?
It all started with the Arabic Typography class that I took with master calligrapher Samir Sayegh at the American University of Beirut. We had an assignment to use a specific set of drawings to make logos with our names and I wanted to redesign the letter noon as it appears so often in my name. Two weeks later, I had a new design and a lifelong obsession with type.

How many typefaces have you developed until now?
Quite a few! More than 15 typeface families and counting. Hopefully many to come. These include: Frutiger Arabic, Neue Helvetica Arabic, Palatino Arabic, Palatino Sans Arabic, Univers Next Arabic, DIN Next Arabic and Koufiya.

Is type design what you are mainly doing? What is your profession aside from type design?
At Monoype, I dedicate half of my time to type design and the other half to legibility research. This is a continuation of my PhD research and I was very lucky that Monotype started the collaboration with the MIT AgeLab ( just around the time I was finishing up.

What inspired you to design Zapfino Arabic?
I had worked with Prof. Zapf on two projects already and the colleagues had always suggested that I should do an Arabic companion to Zapfino. I hesitated for many years because of the difficulty of the project, but then decided that I’m ready for the challenge in the summer of 2012.

Are you influenced by other typefaces in the design of your typeface?
The design is a blend of two calligraphic styles, Naskh and Nastaaliq, but the end result is a new calligraphic style, albeit typographically. The design of Zapfino Arabic is quite different from anything else out there.

What techniques did you use creating your font and what was the process for creating the design?
I draw straight onto computer. A major breakthrough came in when I switched to Glyphs as it allows in-situ glyph design with the ability to feature OpenType fonts on the fly. I would not have been able to finish the project otherwise, or to enjoy it as much.

What was the greatest challenge you faced while creating your typeface?
I was in effect inventing a new calligraphic style and most of the work went into figuring out the right structure and making sure that the words flowed smoothly. That was the hardest part.

Please describe the look and feel of your typeface.
Like a summer breeze that leaves a whiff of jasmine in the air.

Are there aspects of the design that you think should be highlighted, or you particularly want the graphic design community to know about your typeface?
Zapfino Arabic is a new flavor of calligraphic expression. It’s delicate, soft, and very elegant. Please handle with care!

For what applications would you recommend your typeface (posters, text, newspapers, advertisements, etc.)?
It is mainly intended for display purposes. I would imagine it’ll work well for logos, titles, and even short runs of text as in poems or chapter introductions.

What are the unique details from which you think they distinguish your typeface?
The steep back slant and extravagant forms are quite distinctive. It’s something inherited from the Latin original. You can see them better in this video:

Anything else you would like to share?
Zapfino Arabic shows that the evolution of script styles in Arabic is very much alive. We can build on the existing tradition, but we can continue to grow and explore. There is much more to be done!