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Khotout West El Balad - J. Walter Thompson Cairo

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Downtown Cairo Typefaces is a project aimed at reviving Downtown Arabic script in the streets of Downtown Cairo, from street signs and shop signs, to architectural facades of buildings and advertisements.

The project aims to encourage young designers to reconsider the importance of calligraphy and its aesthetics, and to promote the usage of Arabic type in recognition of its value as a culture reflection and its importance in the Egyptian streets and in the Arab region.

The project research focuses on archiving and analyzing the multiple usages of Arabic typography in the city and the shift of its usage from purely religious/sacred and official/governmental purposes to its transition into vernacular use in public spaces, taking a prominent place in everyday communication. The project highlights some of the Egyptian and Arab calligraphers who participated in this shift through different stages of time, and draws a link between related cultural, social and economic conditions that worked undoubtedly to make this change a fact. 

The design aspect of the project focuses on redesigning some of the ubiquitous letterings that were then converted into a type-face to be available online for free. Designers will then use the new typefaces to apply in designs to be displayed in the streets of Downtown Cairo.

The project began with a few Downtown walking tours during which typographical examples were documented. The design team made a final selection, some scripts were classic and based on existing Arabic calligraphy styles, and some were based on modern primary and geometric shapes. The challenge was to transform these examples into functioning digital typeface.

Research was conducted on the evolution of Arabic calligraphy in Downtown Cairo and the contributions of the various prominent calligraphists in Egypt.  The influence of social changes on Arabic calligraphy, and the transformation of the visual culture of Downtown Cairo through the different time periods was also researched.

Each of the six fonts was inspired by an iconic neighborhood shop sign and named after elements of Downtown Cairo’s culture. The newly designed fonts have been transformed into scripts and made available to download for free here: http://khotoutwestelbalad.com/

The project was for and in collaboration with Al Ismaelia for Real Estate Investment.

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Khotout West El Balad - J. Walter Thompson Cairo

  1. 1. Khotout West El Balad Revitalizing the Arabic Signage of Downtown Cairo
  2. 2. Downtown Cairo Typefaces is a project aimed at reviving Downtown Arabic script in the streets of Downtown Cairo, from street signs and shop signs, to architectural facades of buildings and advertisements.
  3. 3. Nefertari: a geometric typeface inspired by the signage of a tourism company called Nefertari
  4. 4. Madinet Al-Bat: a typeface that is profoundly and intensively used on the streets of Downtown Cairo, in street signage, storefronts, and ads.
  5. 5. Maktab Rita: a digital revival of a retro Egyptian typeface that was prominently used in Downtown Cairo street signs and storefronts
  6. 6. Safwat: a display font, inspired by a Downtown particular shop sign that sells shoes in downtown Cairo, called Safwat.
  7. 7. Seliman: a typeface inspired by Downtown’s pop culture, primarily by a shop's front sign named “Seliman”
  8. 8. The project aims to encourage young designers to reconsider the importance of calligraphy and its aesthetics, and to promote the usage of Arabic type in recognition of its value as a culture reflection and its importance in the Egyptian streets and in the Arab region. The project research focuses on archiving and analyzing the multiple usages of Arabic typography in the city and the shift of its usage from purely religious/sacred and official/governmental purposes to its transition into vernacular use in public spaces, taking a prominent place in everyday communication. The project highlights some of the Egyptian and Arab calligraphers who participated in this shift through different stages of time, and draws a link between related cultural, social and economic conditions that worked undoubtedly to make this change a fact. The design aspect of the project focuses on redesigning some of the ubiquitous letterings that were then converted into a type-face to be available online for free. Designers will then use the new typefaces to apply in designs to be displayed in the streets of Downtown Cairo. The project began with a few Downtown walking tours during which typographical examples were documented. The design team made a final selection, some scripts were classic and based on existing Arabic calligraphy styles, and some were based on modern primary and geometric shapes. The challenge was to transform these examples into functioning digital typeface. Research was conducted on the evolution of Arabic calligraphy in Downtown Cairo and the contributions of the various prominent calligraphists in Egypt. The influence of social changes on Arabic calligraphy, and the transformation of the visual culture of Downtown Cairo through the different time periods was also researched. Each of the six fonts was inspired by an iconic neighborhood shop sign and named after elements of Downtown Cairo’s culture. The newly designed fonts have been transformed into scripts and made available to download for free here. The project was for and in collaboration with Al Ismaelia for Real Estate Investment.

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