New type foundry TPTQ Arabic is dedicated to developing expressive, but authentic, Arabic typefaces.
Typeface design has a western-normativity problem: for years, most Arabic typefaces have been designed by Latin-language typographers. But Arabic is built differently than Latin—its letters can have different contextual shapes, they always connect, and they eschew upper and lowercase letters—which means applying western ideas about type design is asking the script to conform to an unnatural set of standards.
“In the last 60 years Arabic has gone through many changes, and not really positive ones,”says Peter Bil’ak, founder of Dutch type foundry Typotheque. “It’s been subjected to western printing techniques, which cannot accommodate the number of glyphs [in Arabic].” The resulting product is “Simplified Arabic,” a legible but anemic version of the calligraphic script that Bil’ak calls “obviously not great.”