Last month I had the honor of creating the graphics for Designing without Borders, a three-part lecture series hosted by AIGA NY and the TDC. The design process was a collaboration between myself and the event organizers; Caspar Lam, Juan Villanueva, and Lynne Yun, which led to an ambitious undertaking of designing with a dozen languages. This experience was equally rewarding as it was challenging. It inspired me to continue pushing my understanding of typography by going beyond what is linguistically familiar.
I have always had a fascination for Arabic literature; I say this not as a native speaker but as a Lebanese francophone who studied in an American university. The multilingual education system in Lebanon gave us the privilege of reading literature classics in three different languages. But Arabic has always had its unique aura, enchanting me with its subtle grammar and with how the interplay of short and long vowels, along with other rhetorical elements, can overhaul its semantics and enrich its rhythm.
This literary enchantment has indirectly played a significant role in my life by drawing me into calligraphy when I was a design student. I used to keep a notebook in which I collected quotes that piqued my interest. The words I had once noted down started taking different shapes in my calligraphy copybook. The desire to bring these eloquent words to life, through beautifully entangled strokes, fueled my discipline and commitment towards doing–and sometimes overdoing—my homework. Only then was the euphoria of reading matched, if not surpassed, by that of writing.
Despite our political turmoil this year I was determined to stay focused on positivity and ultimately, the things I could control. A long season of learning more about lettering and type design has been one of my professional goals for some time now. I’ve always had an interest/love affair with letters but often find myself in a state of imposter syndrome with it. I focused on exploration, finding communities where I felt comfortable creating work and asking questions, and more importantly, I wanted to keep it relatively casual. I didn’t want to go back to this idea of not knowing what I was doing and feeling like it didn’t count as real lettering or type design.
I’m fortunate enough to work for a company that offers five days of creative renewal, and when I looked at the offerings, I jumped at the opportunity to take a couple of lettering workshops and a Type Design workshop co-lead by a fellow Alphabette, Lila Symons.
The Grolier Club’s exhibition The Calligraphy Revival 1906–2016 (May 17 – July 29, 2017; 10am–5pm Mon–Sat; free admission) is a unique opportunity for anyone interested in applications of western letterforms to experience firsthand the breadth of calligraphy’s beauty as well as its utility. The exhibition, curated by Jerry Kelly, features works by a diverse range of calligraphers. It runs the gamut from art to design to handwriting and often defies categorization.