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6Qs with Type Designer Nadine Chahine //


nchahineAn award winning Lebanese type designer, Nadine Chahine’s day job isn’t considered typical. In fact, she may be the solution to your Arabic typing woes. Committed to bringing Arabic writing back in a modern way, Nadine’s got lots of education under her belt (she’s currently completing her Ph.D.), and has transformed famous fonts like designer favourite Helvetica and remixed it, Arab style. Currently an Arabic specialist at Linotype in Germany, Nadine is the creator of best selling fonts like Frutiger Arabic, Palatino Arabic, Koufiya, Janna, Badiya, and BigVesta Arabic. FEN asked her a few questions about how she started, her favoufarite fonts, and being Arab.

Arial or Helvetica: Helvetica!!!
Favourite Arab dialect: Egyptian, like Nour El-Sherif speaks it.
MAC or PC: Forever Mac!

1. Can you take us through the process of putting together a font?
It starts with an idea that you would sketch out on paper or on a computer. You decide what the design brief is, and go ahead and turn that idea into a typeface that fits the brief. This includes a lot of drawing and redrawing letterforms, and a long process of testing the typeface to see how it works in text. The final phase is font production where the typeface is generated as a working font software.

2. Being a “font maker” isn’t really the usual thing to do, so I’m curious, how did it all begin?
We had an amazing teacher, Samir Sayegh, who gave an Arabic Typography class in university. He got me interested in this topic and I very quickly developed a strong desire to draw Arabic letters. It’s a very small niche, but very fulfilling.

3. How does it feel to be the creator of a font, something people will use day in and day out and will show up on posters, papers, etc?
It’s immensely gratifying. I get a lot of amazing emails from people who love my fonts. It seems that this often overlooked domain touches peoples’ hearts on a very deep level. You wouldn’t expect it, but it’s true.

4. If you had to choose your favourite font, which one would it be, and why?

Of my fonts, it’s a tie between Koufiya, Frutiger Arabic, and Palatino Arabic. Of others it would be Adobe Arabic.

nadinechahine_koufiya nadinechahine_frutigerarabic nadinechahine_palatinoarabic

5. Do you feel that the Arab world will ever appreciate typography the same way they appreciate Arabic calligraphy?
If it were done well, then definitely, yes.

6. Where would you ideally like to see your work?
Somewhere far and unexpected. It’s always a jolt when you recognize your own typeface being used. I usually want to go stand next to it and start telling people that it’s mine. Thankfully, I don’t do that.

For more on Nadine and her fonts, visit her blog >>


About the Author: Danah Abdulla was not born in Canada but has lived here since the age of two. A Palestinian with a degree from the University of Ottawa in something other than Engineering (Mass Communications, minor Commerce), she lives in Toronto where she works as a Digital Cultivator for a big advertising agency. She’s a freelance writer and a blogger. She likes to doodle, read, make jokes, and dance.

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