Wayfinding in the Medina

I’ve had this link stored for a little while now, waiting for me to explore further and write about it. I was initially taken by the use of arabic script to form directional signs (at right) and downloaded the beautifully designed and illustrated thesis by Luigi Farrauto. It’s well worth a look, even if you don’t read Italian. There’s a Q&A in English too:

Which are the main differences between the typography of arabic countries using arabic script and the one of non arabic country using arabic script?
I find that there is more typographic freedom within the Arab world that outside of it. There is a perception, or maybe that’s just how I see it, that Westerners are more focused on fully calligraphic styles for Arabic typefaces, and so they are unaware that we need other typefaces to suit our daily life. Calligraphic styles are great but you can’t set a dictionary in 5 pts size with that.

That’s what I noticed about the sign in the first place - clean, sans-serif (as it were) arabic type. OK, anyone who watched a news broadcast in 2003 would most likely have seen motorway signs written in arabic, but the films crews were hardly focusing on the finer details of the typography.

Lam-Alef ligatures
How has been faced the problem of vertical ligatures in typography?
Opentype provides us with GSUB (glyph substitution) lookups that can exchange a string of characters by a pre-designed ligature. That means that there is a large number of ligatures to be designed, and I’m not a fan of that. In my Naskh style typeface, I kept only horizontal stacking and so I have no ligatures except the Lam-Alef. I find that simpler to read and clearer.

This is also interesting. There are fonts that have been designed with loads of ligatures, but I guess sometimes, less is more.