Austrialia’s Emerystudio, the firm designing the [Burj Khalifa]’s wayfinding systems—the signage that directs visitors around the huge structure—wanted to employ Arabic typography that’d be distinctive, legible, and harmonious when placed next to Latin lettering. Now, the font created for the tower may be spreading to other parts of the fast-developing Middle East.
In 1978, Dr. Mamoun Sakkal, Syrian-born, U.S. type designer in Bothell, Wash., created a Latin-complementary typeface called Shilia (after a mountain range) for a Saudi company. At Emerystudio’s behest, he transformed it into a newer type family called Burj Khalifa Shilia.
Now, Sakkal’s font may start showing up outside of the Burj Khalifa. Nadine Chahine of Monotype Imaging and Linotype in Germany…saw the Shilia sketches that Sakkal had on his website and approached him with an offer that Linotype…license the typeface for even broader applications than the building.
Arabic type design was barely on Westerners’ radar only a dozen years ago. Now, “we are definitely seeing an unprecedented level of interest in Arabic type design,” Chahine said. “This is on par with the increased level of design sophistication and the sheer energy that seems to be flowing in this field. These are very exciting times to be an Arabic type designer, and we are lucky that the font technology has developed to a level that gives us so much freedom in design.”
Pro-democracy demonstrations in Bahrain have been met with violent reprisals since the Arab Spring began in 2011, and children have been affected not only by losing family members but often as direct witnesses to the brutality. The US-based NGO Human Rights First recently asked these children to document these experiences through drawings. Above, Maryam, aged 7, describes this scene as her and her sister running to help their uncle, who was shot in the head by Bahraini security forces. The Pearl Monument, where the protests took place, is shown at right in a frown. See this and more images as a slide show on the project’s site as well as Max Fisher’s write-up in The Atlantic.