Investigating the history of Arabic typography entails to acknowledge and query the factors that were influential to the shaping of the script in relation to the technology and the cultural environment in which it took place. The early typographic development of Arabic emerged in sixteenth-century Europe, moved primarily by religious interests. The adaptation of manuscript Arabic to movable type imposed compromises on the script, more or less easily detectable, to accommodate the characteristics of the technology. However, the formal quality of the Arabic typeforms also reflected the skills, knowledge and resources available to the people involved in the type-making process.
This talk gives an overview of how engaging with the sources can significantly contribute not only to trace the driving forces behind the visual forms, but also to analyse the development of the products while uncovering the history of the process. A journey through writing and type-making to understand the reasons for the discontinuity between manuscript practice and the typographic representation of the Arabic script.
Emanuela Conidi is a typeface and researcher based in London, with specialist expertise in Arabic script culture. Before relocating to the UK, she gained a Master Degree in Design and Visual Communication from the Polytechnic University of Milan, where she also co-founded a graphic design studio. In 2008 she completed with distinction the MA in Typeface Design at the University of Reading. Since then, she has worked full-time as a typeface designer at Fontsmith, collaborating in developing Latin and non-Latin projects for the foundry’s library and for a variety of clients. At present, she is researching aspects of Arabic typography as part of her PhD at the University of Reading, focusing on the challenges of translating the script from its written to its printed form.