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Q&A with Nadine Chahine

We have a stunning group of speakers and guests sharing with us this year at TypeParis. We wanted to find out a little more about each of them, so have presented them with a series of questions which they have generously taken the time to answer.

Dr. Nadine Chahine is an award-winning Lebanese type designer. She is the CEO at I Love Typography Ltd and the principal at ArabicType Ltd. She has an MA in Typeface Design from the University of Reading, UK, a PhD from Leiden University, The Netherlands, and a Master of Studies in International Relations from Cambridge University. She designed: Frutiger Arabic, Neue Helvetica Arabic, Univers Next Arabic, Palatino Arabic, Avenir Arabic, Amareddine, Makdessi, and Koufiya. She has won numerous awards for her typefaces.

You have naturally been specialized in Arabic scripts and the desired harmonious alliance with the Latin alphabet. But you have also focused your legibility research on others scripts. How it impacted your way to design typefaces?

Nadine Chahine My PhD research was focused on the effect of word complexity in Arabic on legibility. As part of that, I did extensive research on legibility in general, and eye movement in particular. Almost all the studies I came across were carried out for the Latin script, so I ended up picking up expertise within that area too. This turned out to be quite helpful as I collaborated with the MIT AgeLab on numerals studies in the years after my graduation. Legibility research has impacted how I design for sure, though I have also learned along the way to appreciate the highly complex forms that are not so highly legible, but are so beautifully drawn.

“I learned to appreciate the highly complex forms that are not so highly legible, but are so beautifully drawn.”
— Nadine Chahine

How was the experience of working with Hermann Zapf and Adrian Frutiger? What made you change your mind and feeling ready to work on Zapfino Arabic?

It was a great privilege and one of the main reasons why I had wanted to join Linotype in the first place. I worked more closely with Prof Zapf and spent many hours drawing together, designing 3 typefaces families in total. He and I shared the same birthday and over the span of the 10 years we were acquainted, I learned how to draw like he does, and he trusted me with his designs. This is one of the biggest honours I have ever received. It means a lot, when Herman Zapf sends me fax say: I trust you, Nadine.

I worked more closely with Prof Zapf and spent many hours drawing together, designing 3 typefaces families in total.

Could you tell us how to adapt to your script a Geometric Sans to be different from a Humanist Sans, Grotesk Sans?

It’s definitely a structural problem and is mostly reflected in the shape of loops. Arabic has structures that are quite different from Latin so when we try to echo those, we need to look at the logic of formation and the nature of the curves within the structures, and then try to bring that into Arabic.

“Arabic has structures that are quite different from Latin […] we need to look at the logic of formation and the nature of the curves.”
— Nadine Chahine

2022-typeparis22-Nadine-Chahine-08

What is your favourite way to start your day?

I try not to work in the mornings. I take my dog for a walk, and do things around the house or I do sports. I prefer to work in the afternoon and evenings. I also avoid meetings in the morning. I pile all of them into the afternoon so my mornings are very quiet and calm. It helps me structure the day into calm, talkative, and restive phases. The first thing I do when I sit at my desk is quickly look at my emails then head off to Twitter.

Do you prefer a permanent/dedicated workspace, or do you like to keep mobile?

I like to work from home and to wear very comfy things. I also like to design late in the evenings. So my ideal space is close to my kitchen so I can get snacks, and somewhere I can relax and play loud music without interruptions. For many years I had to design at the office during the typical office hours and it never felt 100% comfortable.

“Every typeface had its own song.”
— Nadine Chahine

Favourite kind of music to listen to while working?

I like to listen to Arabic music when I draw, the louder the better. Recently, I’ve been exploring the design of typefaces inspired by human emotions and in those projects, every typeface had its own song and I would listen to it on repeat.

Thank you very much, Nadine!

– Interview by Gina Serret

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Thank you to Monotype for being sponsor for TypeParis
Thanks to Monotype for beign our steel sponor for TypeParis22
September 4, 2022
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