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6/06 2009

Arabic fonts for mobile

I read an interesting article on type design for mobile devices. What are the characteristics that one should look for in a font? What works best? As type designers, we’ve been mostly preoccupied with print design because that’s the biggest playing field that we’ve been allowed into. There’s been a lot of interesting work done for TV as well (will blog about that later) but it’s really exciting to see that one more field is now open. Mobile phones play an increasingly bigger role in our daily lives and it is only natural that mobile typography now rises to the surface.
When it comes to Arabic, what would be a good mobile font? Allan Haley, the author of the article I was refering to, mentions several key characteristics:

  • Ample lowercase x-height
  • Open counters
  • Distinctive character shapes
  • Moderate contrast in character stroke thickness
  • Recognizable typeface design traits
  • Marked contrast between medium and bold weights within the type family

How would this translate in Arabic type design? It feels that these characteristics are shared by many of what once could call “modern” designs. For example, it looks like my Frutiger Arabic, Janna and Badiya fit the description quite well. They both have large open counters, distinct character structures to aid readability, low contrast, and clear differentiation between the regular and bold.


The big question remains, which stylistic trait would one recommend? A Naskh or a Kufi? In my mind I have no doubt that Frutiger Arabic would work quite well for it is in reality a hybrid design that brings in the human touch of Naskh to the discipline of the Kufi, but is the world ready for this? The success that Frutiger Arabic has had seems to indicate that readers are reacting positively to this trend.

It is this exploration into the interaction between styles that makes Arabic type design so fascinating for me. And now, with the mobile world growing bigger every day, the game just got more exciting!