Arabic Type on the Web

Syrian born Otba Mushaweh, who works in Saudi Arabia, is the founder of Type Stage, the first “Arabic” platform that grants website owners the ability to use professional and fast Arabic webfonts (Arabic, Urdu and Persian). Currently in a beta stage, it will bring service to millions of current Arabic websites, and given the continued popularization of the Internet in MENA, Type Stage will assist millions of future Arabic websites.

Type Stage has started from zero. “We only have three fonts right now and we are working on the others,” says Mushaweh, who answered some questions about this new service below.

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What was the reason for starting Type Stage?
The Arab nation has one of the oldest and most amazing typography histories in the world. This dates back to thousands of years ago. It starts through the Phoenician culture in the Ugarit area in Syria, as has been stated in books.

In its heyday, Arabic Script had nearly 80 styles and was used in dozens of countries in Asia and Africa. In addition to the dozens of languages used, the countries used the Arabic alphabet to write their own scripts.

However, these days, we have a big problem with the Arabic fonts. Personal estimates by designers state that there are nearly 500 Arabic fonts around. More than 90% of the fonts are unsuitable for using on the web, either for aesthetic aspects or for technical aspects. The figure of total number of Arabic fonts is minor when contrasted to various Latin-based fonts, which consist of more than 150,000 fonts as stated in a 2011 study.

On the other hand, we have an additional problem with the Arabic content on the internet, which is still just 3% of internet content. The Arabic users are suffering with having to read all of their content in one default font. This is the default font on most computers, which sometimes has a problem in the justification or in readability rate at some sizes. All of these reasons make the process of reading Arabic text on the screen a very boring, unproductive, and uncomfortable experience if you work on computers often.

Therefore, Type Stage has been starting to be a platform for Arabic web fonts (Traditional Arabic, Urdu, and Persian). The platform aims to change the face of the Arabic content on the internet and to encourage people to speak, write, and read in Arabic by providing readable and beautiful content.

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How will it become sustainable?
Many people ask for new Arabic fonts to be available for using on the internet. People always need to learn, read, write and follow web standards in the process of designing and developing websites. Therefore, we cannot abandon this service.

Why the name Type Stage?
It is just a simple and eye-catching name. It is familiar to the community of typography.

How do you plan on expanding your range of typefaces?
The project had started with just one font for headings, and now it has three fonts. I am trying to add a new font each 2 months or so. It is not an easy job. Designing professional Arabic font cost us an arm and a leg, but I am trying to manage as much as possible.

Who are the designers you are working with?
Up until now, we have not yet worked with external designers. We have some professional consultants in the type design industry. I have designed the three fonts on the Type Stage ( I am a graphic designer with over 10 years experience) and trying to find sponsors for Type Stage so that we can work with other designers and type foundries.

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Is there a particular style of arabic type that is most used?
People are looking for something simple and clean when considering Arabic web fonts. So, most of our designs are between the Naskh style (for text) and Kufi Style (for headings and short paragraphs). Sometimes, we make hybrid fonts, which merge Naskh and Kufi together.

What has been the response to date?
Well, it is a little less than 4 months from the start of Type Stage. I believe the path is still long and hard, but I am optimistic, and I love what I do. I am sure we can make a revolution in type design as the Latin did before, and changing the status quo 180 degrees.

 
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