Massira is defined in Arabic as: to walk with, to walk in a group, from the action of walking. In Lebanese slang, Massira happens when a group of people walks together for a purpose or cause; it could be a political demonstration or even a prayer group.
My concept of making an Arabic Lebanese typeface that reflects the spirit of the Lebanese people led me to the demonstrations by the Lebanese in Beirut that occurred between February and April of 2005. Searching for a visual reference in this event, I found that the petition, which started out spontaneously from the demonstrators, would be my source of inspiration for my Lebanese typeface.

massira-poster-new


When I started looking closely at the photos of the petition, it was not any more some words written on fabric but: I- different kinds of personalised handwritings expressed using II- different kinds of tools. When viewing the same words written by different people, you start to notice the difference in the shape of the words and the letters. Some letters have completely different shapes when written in a fast flowing way. There is a big difference between the traditional calligraphic writings and the modern everyday writings of the Lebanese people. I also asked all of my Lebanese friends to write in their own hand writing the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” so that I can easily compare words.

The idea behind Massira consists of:

1. A Naskh based type with a revolutionary feel in the shape of the glyphs containing sharp edges with a low contrast construction. It will also include brakes in the flow of the stroke (in the thinnest part of the stroke), which will emphasis the sharp breaking characteristic.

Massira Regular

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Massira Bold

massira-typo

2. Simplified fast handwriting glyphs based on the writings of the Lebanese people on the petition. This script will be more organic with a low contrast construction. I have to note that a few of the simplified glyphs might look similar to some glyphs found in the Ruqaa style which is also based on fast handwriting.

Massira Ball-Point

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Massira Spray

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The introduction of two scripts in the type family will enable Arabic typographers and graphic designers to have a second level of type which can be used for emphasis, legends, quotes…

Characteristics of the two scripts:

1. Open counter shapes that are proportionally balanced unlike the clotted and disproportionate counters of other Arabic fonts.
2. No use of strong straight horizontal baseline that is also present in most Arabic text typefaces. There is a friendly flow in the connection of the characters. The grey of the text will be homogeneous and it will not appear as horizontal lines.

This idea is based only on one tool. If then I take each tool by itself (like felt pen, ball point pen, spray, lipstick, tip-ex, chalk…), then for each tool the previous mentioned concept can be developed. It is a growing concept. Moreover, if I then consider the texture of the fabric or the wall… and the performance of the tools and their flaws while writing (like the small white patches where the ink doesn’t stick) the family tree will be even bigger.

Then on a higher level, each set can be developed by itself into a big family by starting from regular to light and bold and condensed to expanded…

In the course of my final project at the Type & Media course, I completed Massira Regular and Bold for the text type, which is based of the felt pen, and Massira Ballpoint and Massira Spray for the display type. The type family will not stop there; it will be developed to represent all the mentioned tools previously.

Pascal Zoghbi
MD Type & Media