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Innovating with a font


Public’s interest in type design (and more in general graphic art) continues to grow. The 1990’s shift to digital technologies and the Internet gave birth to a period of intense creativity around it. To its devotees, typefaces can build a certain order that creates a sense of recognition and trust in the readers, and help convey a message better.

Public’s interest in type design (and more in general graphic art) continues to grow. The 1990’s shift to digital technologies and the Internet gave birth to a period of intense creativity around it. To its devotees, typefaces can build a certain order that creates a sense of recognition and trust in the readers, and help convey a message better.

The Arabic script has had benefits from the vibrant world of present-day “webfont” era, too.

Lebanese type and graphic designer Pascal Zoghbi is of the same opinion. He runs 29Letters (29LT), an award-winning design studio in Beirut specializing in contemporary Arabic type.

Advanced digital technology has made it easier for him to design the Arabic script – a cursive writing that consists in three to four shapes per letter, that change depending on where the letter is in the word.

“I have always found myself interested in letterforms. I am curious about the calligraphic and typographic aspects of the Arabic script more than the language itself”, he says in a Skype conversation.

Zoghbi seeks to bridge not only design gaps, but also linguistic ones. Through 29LT’s studio in Beirut, he works on a global approach to type design: multilingual typefaces, or fonts that contain a character set of several scripts supporting many languages.

Not just for geeks

Meeting a growing demand among international corporations that choose MENA for their next business, 29Letters (the name is inspired by the 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet plus the letter hamza) is today a small but well-established independent and digital type foundry.

Zoghbi works with a handful of international designers from different desks in Europe and the Middle East. Outside special commissions, a set of fonts are available to buy and download from 29LT’s website. When Zoghbi started 29LT in 2012, it was one of the first entrepreneurs of this kind in the region, he believes. Swatch and Expo 2020 Dubai are now among its clients, while his Noto Naskh typeface is used for the Google’s Arabic web and mobile content.

29LT's Zarid fonts (Courtesy of 29LT)

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