• Steven Heller

From Latin to Arabic and Back Again

Leen Sadder, from Beirut, Lebanon, took part in the Summer 2010 SVA Masters Workshop in Venice and Rome. Her Venice project for Louise Fili’s type guidebook class involved the translation of Italian signs into Arabic. I asked her why:

I was inspired by the hand-lettered signs I kept seeing all over Venice and wanted to really get into the details of the lettering and put myself in place of the sign painter. It was sort of like a puzzle; I would have to figure out how the sign had originally been made and apply the technique to the Arabic letters. The exercise forced me to look at every detail and mimic it while maintaining the legibility of the language. The main difficulty faced in creating the adaptations was figuring out how to apply a very Latin technique of sign painting to the Arabic letters, as well as making sure not to compromise legibility for form. I ended up choosing to use transliterations of the words instead of translations in order to really focus on the form and not the meaning of the lettering. I think the fluid and flexible nature of the Arabic letters lends itself to more experimentation than we have seen lately. While lettering and sign painting is making a huge comeback in Latin-based typography, Arabic typography today seems to be more focused on the calligraphic qualities rather than the decorative or ornamental, and I feel that there is lots of room for experimentation in that realm.

For more on the Masters Workshop go here and see video here.

(See the Nightly Heller on Sonia Delaunay here.)