ALDHABI: ADVENTURES ON THE WAY TO CURLS
Aldhabi is a new Perso-Arabic display typeface commissioned by Microsoft for inclusion in Windows 8. It represents the furtherance of display typography explorations begun with the Gabriola typeface (Latin, Greek, Cyrillic), which was also commissioned by Microsoft’s Advance Reading Technologies group. The Aldhabi Arabic component was designed by Tim Holloway, art directed by Fiona Ross; the Latin companion design was produced by John Hudson; the set of ornaments inspired by Izmir ceramics was designed by Titus Nemeth.
The design of Aldhabi was indirectly inspired by the exhibition “Turks: a journey of a thousand years,” held in London in the Spring of 2005, and directly by a small manuscript book in the exhibition: the “Risāla-i Vujūdīyya (Treatise on Existence)” of Ali ibn Muhammad al-Jurjani, produced at Istanbul around the year 1470. This book was written in a delicate Ottoman calligraphic style known as ‘zülf-ü aruz’—the ‘way of curls’—, a subcategory of early ‘diwani.’ The design of the Aldhabi type is not an attempt to reproduce this calligraphic style, but to produce a new typographic form inspired by the visual impact of the style and synthesising elements of early ‘diwani’ and ‘nastaliq.’
John Hudson presents the development of the Aldhabi typeface, from the initial design ideas, the influence of the Decotype and Linotype Qalmi approaches to Arabic typography, the complex project planning, the iterative review and refinement of the design, hinting of the font for screen rendering, and the complicated OpenType Layout programming to make it all work. Along the ‘way to curls’—to achieving the aimed for impact on page and screen—this project exposed both strengths and weaknesses of the OpenType Layout model and of various pieces of software from Microsoft and other companies. John Hudson considers these critically and looks at what remains to be done to fulfill the potential of Aldhabi.