Behold the Arabic font of the future

The Saifi Institute for Arabic Language just launched a new Arabic font: the Urban Arabic font, free for download.

I find this exciting because finally - there is initiative to adapt instead of silently witnessing the demise of a language. So many old farts lie around complaining about Arabic succumbing to French and English in Lebanon, instead of perhaps looking into the various factors causing it and acting accordingly (I'm talking from first-hand experience).

I mean, come on, look at the characters:

And now look where the language is placed on this difficulty ranking chart:

Source: Effective Language Learning
The Arabic language is one of the most difficult to learn, and for plenty of controversial factors.

One of the factors, in my opinion, is the reader's increasing impatience in the digital age. Arabic fonts tend to appear much smaller on screens, and the characters are too embellished (similarly to Arabic calligraphy) that they slow you down in comparison to the minimalism of Latin typefaces.

Saifi Institute's Urban Font is really easy to read, especially if you're not a fluent reader of the language (like yours truly):

Arabic Urban Font

The Urban Font comes with an accompanying English typeface, so that you can use them together without having to change the font or size to align both when mixing languages.

Some features:

  • Most letters are grouped into nine families – three are considered "lonely letters" because they do not share characteristics with the any other letter.
  • Each letter in a family shares a basic shape in the beginning and middle positions, and they are distinguished within the family by the number and placement of dots as well as some minor shape changes in homage to the traditional end and independent letter forms. 
  • When two or three dots are written together (as in ت or ش) they are combined into a slash or upside-down "v" shape, recalling a common shortcut used in handwriting.

Though this font was created for foreign learners, I definitely see how it could make Arabic-language much novels and newsapers more enjoyable.

There have many other attempts to "urbanize" the language, but none that have been too successful. If you know of any noteworthy fonts, let me know!

Saifi Institute, known for the Urban Arabic courses they offer to foreign students as a second language, is doing incredibly impressive work in easing the learning curve of colloquial Arabic. One would think the Ministry of Culture would organize/subsidize initiatives of the sort, but alas...

The font is available for free download here.


News and features for visual arts junkies