NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 26


The Typographic Matchmaking Projects

Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès

The Typographic Matchmaking projects were initiated by the Khatt Foundation as a means to bring about cultural dialogue through collaborative design projects. The goal was to investigate alternatives to the Arabic fonts available on the market and to propose through specific themes new design solutions.The projects have proven to be highly inspirational for the participating designers; they brought together designers from different cultural and professional backgrounds to intensely collaborate on creating coherent products with groundbreaking results.These projects show the important role that design can play in initiating cultural change, assimilation and integration—by simply using our daily basic communication mode: the written word.

Typographic Matchmaking v1.0
The first Typographic Matchmaking project was initiated in April 2005.The research explored the bilingual and dual-script needs of contemporary design in the Arab world and Middle East for publications and new-media.The aim was to create good Arabic fonts that would set a benchmark for future developments in the field. Five renowned Dutch designers were invited, each matched with an Arab designer. Five new Arabic fonts (in two weights) were designed and developed, and the process was documented in the book Typographic Matchmaking (BIS Publishers, Amsterdam, 2007). The project was then publicized through a series of events; the Khatt Kufi & Kaffiya Symposium on Arabic Visual Culture, at which the book and project were presented and the Khatt Foundation’s online network ( was launched; and the El Hema exhibition.

Typographic Matchmaking in the City
Building on the successes of the first project, Typographic Matchmaking in the City set out to design both the Arabic and Latin alphabets simultaneously. The project consisted of 5 teams of 15 Dutch and Arab designers (type and graphic designers, architects, industrial designers) who collaborated on designing bilingual typefaces for 3-dimensional/architectural design applications. The end result of this project is 5 new bilingual font families (Arabic & Latin) that are inspired by and made for the urban public space, one book and a documentary film.
The film, directed by Jan de Bruin, was shot on several locations in Amsterdam, Dubai, Sharjah, Pingjum (Friesland), and Doha, following the design teams while they traveled, worked together, and presented their work. The book offers an illustrated account of the research of each of the teams in a sketchbook style. These central sketchbooks are then framed by essays by various scholars and designers discussing the role of typography in architectural/public spaces.

Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès

Huda Smitshuijzen AbiFarès, was born in Beirut. Author of Arabic Typography: a comprehensive sourcebook (Saqi Books, London, 2001), Experimental Arabic Type (Saatchi & Saatchi, Dubai, 2002), Typographic Matchmaking (BIS Publishers, Amsterdam 2007), Typographic Matchmaking in the City (Khatt Books, Amsterdam 2011), and a number of articles on multilingual communication and contemporary design in the Middle East. Huda contributes articles on design in the Middle East to academic journals and industry magazines like Baseline, Bidoun, Design Issues, and many others. She has taught typography and graphic design at the American University of Beirut and the American University in Dubai. Huda is the director and founder of the Khatt Foundation, Center for Arabic Typography. She curates exhibitions, organizes collaborative design research projects between Europe and the Middle East, and is editor of the Khatt Foundation online network of Arab/Middle Eastern designers ( Huda is a member of Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI).

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