29LT Massira is a simplified spontaneous handwriting set of fonts based on the casual writings of the Lebanese people and the Ruqaa Arabic calligraphic style. The type-family does not have weights but different styles based on different writing tools. The four styles are: PEN, TIPPEX, LIPSTICK and SPRAY.
The Massira type project started as my graduation project at the MA program in “Type & Media” at “The Royal Academy of Arts” in The Netherlands. The type-family was inspired from the graffiti writings of the demonstrators in Martyrs Square in Beirut after the assassination of the PM and the withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon throughout 2005 – 2006. Analyzing the handwritings on the petition and noting the different kinds of writing tools used (pen, chalk, lipstick, spray, etc.…) used led to the creation of Massira type project.
In 2006 I only created the Pen and Spray styles since these were the most used tools for the graffiti writings. Completing the type-family was always among my work tasks but got postponed due to commitments to other corporate projects. The project was on hold until 2011, The Arab spring that started in Tunisia and spread all over the Arab world encouraged me to look again at the Massira type project and finalize it. Graffiti is always part of revolutions and demonstrators will use any writing tool to shout out their thoughts and demands.
“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 a cause, for example as a political demonstration.
Type Design Process
The design process of “Massira Type” started with the analysis of different handwritings and drawings, documenting the various alternative shapes each letter had and how each letter varies between a person and another. The analysis proceeded from the images I took of the petition in 2005, and it evolved into asking friends and colleagues to write the same text taken from the UN Humans Rights article.
After the analysis was done, the variations of each letter in the Arabic language were drawn and ranked according to the letter’s presence in various handwritings. The letterforms with the highest ranks got chosen and drawn in the Massira fonts.
Before starting with the design of the fonts based on the various tools (Pen, TippEx, Lipstick and Spray), a skeleton shape was needed to be drawn for each letter and for all its variants in initial, medial, final and isolated positions. Once the skeleton design was done, it was used as a reference for the creation of the fonts.
Below is the design process for the creation of the Massira Spray font.
The process is the same for all the other fonts; the only change was the size of the printed skeleton; the size of the paper used to draw the letters changed according to the width of the tool. Hence, the skeleton for the Spray font was the biggest, while the Pen and the TippEx were the smallest.
1. Drawing the skeleton shape of every letter required basic glyph and ligature.
2. Printing each skeleton on A3 white paper. In the beginning I sprayed some letters on A4 but the letters were clotting too much when sprayed. A3 was chosen to make the letters more realistic and not clotted. Moreover, the bigger the letter the more will the hand flow appear in the stroke.
3. Photographing all the sprayed letters.
4. Transforming all the photos into bitmap black and white formats and working with the right threshold to have the required spray feeling.
5. Transforming all the bitmaps into outlines using the Live-trace option in Adobe Illustrator CS and Adobe StreamLine. (For the Spray, TippEx and Lipstick fonts, Live-Trace had to be used since the outlines are very rough and they cannot be traced manually. The Pen font on the other hand was traced manually with utmost care for the outline form and its contrast.)
6. Working on the outlines in Adobe Illustrator CS2 in order to make the spray feel more even and equal in each glyph.
7. Importing the entire outlines to Fontlab and creating the font.
8. Working on the connection between the glyphs. If it is an isolated glyph, then there is no problem, but in a connecting glyph you have to fix the connections properly and make them flow with all the other connecting glyphs.
9. Modifying the outlines or the weight in order to achieve the proper text colour for each tool.
10. Testing and refining until the desired final feel was achieved.
The Massira fonts cover the Arabic, Persian and Urdu languages. Around 115 ligatures are added to the main character set in order to allow certain fluidity in the fonts and to mimic the spontaneity of the Arabic handwriting as much as possible.
29LT Massira Type Specimen