Lyon Arabic is the new counterpart of a Commercial Type favourite, informed by Naskh and Nastaliq scripts

Lyon Arabic is the new counterpart of a Commercial Type favourite, informed by Naskh and Nastaliq scripts


Following its success, the New York and London-based type foundry decided to expand another of its best seller’s, Lyon. Designed specifically for longer passages of texts, “the typeface is a crisp and modern redraw of serious classics inspired by punch-cutter Robert Granjon’s 16th century masterworks.” Lyon Arabic presented Wael and Khajeg with an opportunity to design something purely from an Arabic perspective. It could perform similarly to its Latin counterpart but with its own cultural nuances in mind.

Arab typography is historically and culturally rich, with many layers of meaning imbued throughout its iterations. In spite of this, the transition from writer script to typography is still maturing, an aspect of type design that Wael and Khajeg are committed to strengthening. Two years in the making, Lyon Arabic is an entirely redrawn companion informed by two Perso-Arabic scripts; Naskh and Nastaliq. Entirely redrawn from Kai Bernau’s original 2009 Lyon design, the Arabic version is similarly straight-forward in its detailing with a pared-back construction which makes it wholly comfortable for reading at smaller point sizes.

In the process of creating this wide-ranging family of fonts, for Wael and Khajeg, one question in particular remained front of mind throughout the design process: “How can we develop a companion for the Latin Italic without forcing a Western concept onto Arabic?” It took the designers back to the history books. Delving into different forms of Arabic script, they discovered how varying styles were often mixed in written and printed layouts to create hierarchy. “If italics in Latin were used to create different emphasis,” explains Wael, “mixing different scripts in Arabic introduced different extras and a change in rhythm.”

In turn, they decided to create a variation of Lyon Arabic titled Lyon Arabic Slanted with a distinct digital touch. Looking to the Nastaliq script to inform this model, Lyon Arabic Slanted offers its users a more fluid, angled alternative to the standard version. Adding hierarchy and versatility to the Lyon Arabic family, the Slanted alternative is a standalone powerhouse of style and flavour while simultaneously being a complimentary side to the Naskh-inspired original. “Nastaliq is amongst the most fluid calligraphy styles and has a natural slant to its proportions,” adds the type designer. “The result is a reinvention of a calligraphic tradition to be used in modern typographic contexts.” Undeniably a significant feat in the contemporary design of Arabic scripts, for Wael and Khajeg, one fundamental question remains despite all the work: Will the general public embrace Lyon Arabic? Well, let’s find out.


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