What is the beauty of Arabic typography to you? What attraction makes you work on in this field? What is the most important thing or philosophy when you treating typography or designing?
The beauty of Arabic type and typography is its flexibility and fluidity. The characteristics and writing rules of the Arabic script gives the letters majesty and elegance while at the same keeping the freedom for the typographer to manipulate and play around with its letters outlines and forms. An experienced Arabic typographer knows the limitations of the manipulations and the rules of the different calligraphic scripts that will enable him/her to create contemporary Arabic typography besides keeping in respect to the traditional structure.
The Arabic script is often compared to music or dancing due to its flowing pen strokes that create the graceful letters and words. Personally I view the letters as individuals with spirits that I need to interact with. Every new Arabic type I draw is an interpretation of a certain visual image or elucidation of a design characteristic that stems out from research and analysis of a certain topic or idea.
You studied in the Netherland, and you work in Beirut, Lebanon. How your cultural background affects your typographic works?
My stay in The Netherlands during my graduate studies at The Royal Academy of Arts opened my eyes to the importance and influence of type on your everyday life. The Dutch designers are known for their love and proficiency in type design and I become myself Dutch in this sense. Upon my return to Lebanon after my graduation, I became aware of the Arabic calligraphy and type that is strongly present in our Arab society that I was taking for granted prior my living in a European nation. I started documenting and researching Arabic calligraphy in urban and street art to modern Arab art and designs.
My work can be summarized as modern Arabic typographic design with a Dutch influence and type knowledge.
Nowadays, some designers and students in Korea use only English in their design. How about the situation of Lebanon? Is there some characteristic in Lebanese typography world, or more broadly in the Arabic nations?
Globalization and the dominance of the English language in our global village make the phenomena of the use of the English language primarily or secondary alongside the Arabic language in Lebanon. The French language is also abundant in Lebanon due to the fact that Lebanon is a francophone nation. Hence, most of the publications in Lebanon are either bilingual or trilingual English, French and Arabic. Most Lebanese speak English and Arabic or French and Arabic since their childhood due to the fact that most of the schools are based on English or French education systems. Furthermore, the Lebanese have an identity crisis between being Arabs or Phoenicians, Orientals or Westerners, etc… All of these factors make the Lebanese read and write more in English or French then Arabic.
Lebanese typographers are proficient in both Latin and Arabic typography though many of them lake a full knowledge and understanding of the Arabic script and its role in our culture. During the last few years the awareness to the importance of the Arabic script in graphic design was recognized and nowadays young graphic designers and typographers appreciate more the script and learning more about it.
The use of the Arabic script is a dilemma since some Lebanese hate it and do not like to work with it while other Lebanese, who are more in contact with their Arab culture, love the script and their work revolve around it.
Personally I use to hate the Arabic script and language during my youth while now a love it and all my work is focused on creating contemporary Arabic typography.
What is the attraction or difficulty in designing with Arabic, your own language?
Knowing that I am contributing to the development and growth of the Arabic typographic world makes me want to learn more about the Arabic script and create contemporary Arabic type designs.
I do not find the Arabic script difficult but magical, and the more I learn about it the more attractive it becomes to me.
In the future what kind of works do you want to do? And what do you want to achieve through your work?
Hopefully in the near future I will launch my own Arabic type foundry and publish my fonts and other young Arabic type designers to enrich the Arab typographic world with contemporary new Arabic fonts. The new fonts will lend the community a fresh and new look to their publications and designs.
Pascal Zoghbi, Arabic Type Designer and Typographer, is the founder of “29 Arabic Letters”, an Arabic Type Design and Typography firm in Beirut. His design work ranges from creating new Arabic fonts, corporate identities and print publications. Since 2006, after his graduation from the Type & Media course at The Royal Academy of Arts in The Netherlands with a Master of Design, Pascal was involved in an impressive collection of new Arabic type design projects. He has created contemporary Arabic fonts for leading Middle Eastern Newspapers, urban places, art events & magazines, software and several other companies. Pascal took part of the Typographic Matchmaking 01 and 02 projects organized by The Khatt Foundation. He has been teaching typography and type design courses at graphic design schools in Lebanon at Lebanese American University LAU, Notre Dame University NDU and American University of Beirut AUB since 2006. He frequently gives lectures and workshops about Arabic type and typography and he runs a blog about Arabic type and typography. He recently co-authored and edited the “Arabic Graffiti” book that is published by “From Here To Fame” in Berlin.