Designing from a new viewpoint


It is always difficult to set our minds out of our comfort zone, our culture, our perspective… shaped after decades of education, cultural environment and local customs. However, it is a rather interesting exercise, highly recommendable to any one, specially if working on any creative field.

A couple of years ago we found ourselves designing an Arabic Nashk typeface for our library which we called Nawin which is a family intended for children’s book and branding. This is not out of our ordinary lives as type designers dedicated to design many scripts other than Latin. However, the extraordinary came after, involuntarily. We have had designed Nawin and a few months after we thought that this typeface was very nice so we could extend it into Latin. Here is where without noticing we entered a whole new world as we never had designed a Latin after another writing system. This was a beautiful experience for us, it made us realise we were doing things from a new viewpoint.

Sketches from the design process of Nawin, we took some features from the Arabic to be used in the Latin

Having an Arabic to match the Latin with meant we had to approach things “the other way around” for our Western minds. It was difficult to adjust, however we discovered that we found a lot of freedom for our new Latin we did not know we had. The Arabic script on its Nashk style is much more fluid and has more modulation, it is also more flexible in terms of vertical proportions in the sense that the Latin has a few fixed mesures (x-height, ascenders, descenders and cap height) while the Nashk Arabic has a few more and can sometimes be modified slightly without affecting legibility. We took advantage of these features and freed ourselves to be more playful with Nawin Latin. This was posible to explore on its whole extend given the nature of the design, Nawin is a typeface inspire in handwriting.

Instructional piece of calligraphy in Naskh script by Zayno'l-‘Abedin Esfahani. 1858 CE. Reza ‘Abbasi Museum, Tehran
Comparison of vertical proportions of Arabic and Latin (Typeface used: Baldufa Arabic Latin)

We later remember that once upon a time while researching to write an article on creativity in type design, (which never was finished), we came across an interesting experiment on creativity, which coincidentally proved that doing exactly what we did with Nawin boosts creativity. Simone Ritter (Radbound University) experiments re-inforcing creativity by using new experiences states that «breaking routine even to the simplest level improves creativity». In her experiments she made people do simple things like pouring milk in a bowl before putting the cereals. It was observed that those little things which surprise us because they are unexpected boosts our creativity.

We did feel that our creativity was boosted by doing something quotidian for us like designing multi script typefaces in a different order we usually follow. So much so that we decided to engage on another design using this new approach, we are designing a new library typeface, Athenea, which right now is only Greek, later on we will design a Latin companion, we will see where this lead us…