Parachute® has created over the years some of the most sophisticated contemporary typefaces, supporting simultaneously hundreds of languages. Typefaces such as the Champion Script Pro, Centro Pro, Handbook Pro, Beau Sans Pro and of course the DIN Pro series, have been appreciated and used by designers worldwide. Now, for the first time, the competitive DIN Text Pro family is enhanced with Arabic. Parachute® collaborated with designer Hasan Abu Afash to create 2 new versions. DIN Text Arabic is the basic Arabic version which includes Latin and supports all variations of the Arabic script such as Persian, Urdu and Pashto. The second version DIN Text Universal is the most advanced DIN superfamily ever. It combines the powerful DIN Text Pro with DIN Text Arabic. All together it supports hundreds of languages, proving to be an essential tool for corporations which operate internationally.
We spoke to designer Hasan Abu Afash about the 2 new DIN families and this is what he told us: “The particular project was very challenging as we had to not only design a matching Arabic version but also incorporate within the same font 4 different scripts i.e. Latin, Arabic, Cyrillic and Greek -bringing the number of glyphs to 3320 per font- as well as enhance it with 30 advanced opentype features and kerning for all languages. It took about a year to complete the whole family which consists of eight weights from extra black to hairline.
The brief was clear. We wanted to match Arabic to the other three scripts in a way that will not compromise its cultural integrity or disturb the essential qualities of the Arabic script and its powerful tradition. Furthermore, our goal was to create an arabic superfamily with typographic value and a variety of weights to accommodate a wide range of text and display needs”.
The design methodology
The Arabic script has a number of different styles of calligraphy, so obviously the very first step is to decide which style is most suitable. It was decided to use the kufi style since its simple geometric and uniform shapes can relate better to sans serif fonts such as Din Text. For a small number of glyphs though, the naskh approach was implemented in order to blend softer familiar shapes with the more stiff geometric nature of kufi. This is in tune with the font’s original guidelines to make the latin part of the DIN standard more ‘typographically correct’.
The project was divided into 2 major stages: the design stage and the programming stage. During the first stage, Hasan worked closely with Panos Vassiliou who supervised the project. A long time was spent to get the base glyphs right for the very first weight. A lot of discussion took place and several alternate forms of each letter were designed before an agreement was reached for their final shape (blue highlight).
According to Hasan, “I started the matching process by harmonizing the optical weight and height of the alif and then proceeded to work on tah comparing its optical weight and shape to that of latin b and n. No attempt was made to match elements of the arabic letters to the latin x-height as arabic does not have a single equivalent to the x-height. I revised and adjusted both alif and tah a number of times at this stage. This provides a good starting point for the harmonization, while leaving most of the other Arabic design decisions independent. I designed seen as a hybrid model based on kufi with a couple of naskh details. I completed the glyphs and waited for Panos’ comments who also made further adjustments to my designs. Then an encoding file was created to include all arabic glyphs according to Unicode 5.2 and was further enhanced with an extensive array of arabic ligatures“.
As soon as the whole set of glyphs was completed, Hasan moved on to the following stage which is programming. There are several opentype features such as mark positioning that are still not supported by FontLab, so the next best solution is Microsoft VOLT which has a very powerful interface for programming complicated scripts such as arabic.
Kerning is equally important as any other part of programming. This particular family already included a large number of kerning pairs for scripts such as Latin, Cyrillic and Greek, but several more were added for Arabic. The last section of programming was allocated to mark positioning which is a very tedious and time consuming process.
As soon as the design work and programming for the regular weight was completed, Hasan focused on the extra thin and bold weights, while Panos completed the design for extreme weights such as hairline and extra black. There’s only eight variations to DIN Universal and DIN Arabic. Italics are not included as italic is not really an option used for arabic.
Quality Control & Fine Tuning
During the implementation period we run several tests on screen and numerous pages were printed to check the typeface under operational conditions. Proper mark positioning was extensively tested and double-checked, troublesome glyphs and marks were highlighted and sent back and forth for further adjustment and fine-tuning.
Large type families with thousands of glyphs are prone to glyph misplacement. To eliminate such a possibility we devised two sets of print tables which we used to check the proper position of glyphs as well as do a thorough test on opentype features.
DIN Universal is Parachute’s most ambitious text typeface, as for the first time a contemporary arabic equivalent to this comprehensive DIN series of fonts is designed. In fact, this set of fonts contains the most complete and powerful array of arabic features commercially available. The four major scripts Latin, Arabic, Cyrillic and Greek are now matched across the design of the whole family, respecting at the same time each one’s modern cultural identity. With its vast array of weights, the extended support for numerous languages, its careful and detailed design, it will prove to be extremely valuable for many complex corporate international projects. On the other hand, the scaled down DIN Arabic is a less expensive version for designers who are mostly interested in Arabic.