Agadir Series | Combining the Latin alphabet with Arabic script
Tasteful combination of Arabic script and Latin alphabet above the entrance of a hotel, although some Latin characters have problems – look at the long leg on the L and the very narrow A and E – and the kerning is far from consistent. Last year around Easter my wife and I took a long week off to celebrate the 10th anniversary of our mariage in Marrakesh. We were completely enthralled by the enchanting red city, its medina, palaces, mosques, monuments, parks, souk, and the overwhelming Djemaa el Fna. It made us decide to go back to Morroco – this time to Agadir and with our children – where we spent a beach-and-pool vacation last week.
Beautiful integration of “floating” lettering in the architecture. The shadows on the wall created by the lettering form an intricate pattern of interference that hinders legibility but is lovely to behold. I promised myself not to do any work while away and left the laptop home. (It may seem strange taking a week off two weeks into my new work, but this holiday had been planned long before the switch.) Yet when we made a short walk through the city on our last day I couldn’t resist taking some photographs of local typography and lettering. The combination of both Arabic script and the Latin alphabet intrigued me, and reminded me of the excellent presentation by Erik Brandt at ATypI Lisbon two years ago. My own few photographs below are a mere product of happenstance, and my knowledge of the different styles of Arabic script is practically non-existent, so please forgive me any inaccuracies.
The painter of the monumental lettering on the wall is visibly more at ease with the Arabic shapes than with the serif letters – note how proportions, serif shapes and kerning are off. Amongst the most visible instances of architectural lettering in Agadir are of course the signs on the multitude of hotels. There is a certain level of professionalism and aesthetic quality, although a few of them are pretty amateurish. The example above shows a reasonably professional looking sign on top of the building juxtaposed with crude lettering painted on the facade just below. By the way – this is the typographic equivalent of wearing both a belt and suspenders. The sign below betrays that its maker is more familiar with Arabic forms then with Latin character shapes.
This interpretation of a Serpentine-like square sans is rather clumsy, as shows the problematic ‘k’.
Rigid square geometric sans serif forms complement the square abstracted variant of Arabic script. As the classic Latin capitals already are fairly geometric compared to the flowy classic Arabic script, different interpretations appear when the square geometric style of Arabic is combined with Latin – is a regular sans sufficient, or must one go further and use a strict square geometric sans as well?
Classic looking three-dimensional lettering on a shop.
Trying to match the Arabic script with the Futura Script-like Varga proves far less successful than is led to be expected. A bit less pompous and more relaxed are the shop fronts. Although the majority carry delicious vernacular hand painted lettering, some look exactly like classic little shops on the French Riviera – were it not for the Arabic sign that repeats the Latin one. The French influence is very visible in these examples.
As Agadir was completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1960 and the city was completely built anew, nothing is more than fifty years old. Yet some lettering looks vintage and must be from the time when the city had barely been rebuilt. This exhibition sign at the municipal theater on Boulevard Hassan II combines Bremen with a decorative geometric style of Arabic script. The styles don’t necessarily match, but the period feel does.
The Pizza Hut logo in Arabic script is picture perfect down to the green dot. International trade marks are omnipresent and always very successful in translating their logos to Arabic script. Even without their familiar Latin counterparts most of them are instantly recognizable and help make the world a bit more samey, a bit blander by the day.
The Arabic Sprite logo has the same squareness, serif-like spurs and inline shadow as the Latin version.
The stressed sans in the Ciel logo matches its Arabic counterpart perfectly.
Flattening the “baseline” of the Arabic Société Générale logo ensures it is consistent with the stylish wide sans caps of its Latin counterpart. Another example of institutionalized logos that are immaculately designed are the banks. The best example I found is from the CIH (Crédit Immobilier et Hôtelier) which has a stunning stylized Arabic logo (center) that perfectly complements the Latin (left) and Tizinagh (right) versions.
Note how the tension in the curves of the stylized Arabic version match the skinny wide sans caps of the Latin version.
Another really nice logo – which I already noticed during our stay in Marrakesh – is the one for the Banque Populaire. The all lowercase condensed square sans has this delightful 70s atmosphere to it. Regretfully this gem won’t be around much longer.