Sharjah Font

Arabic comes first with Sharjah!

In 2018 I was invited to participate in a pitch for the branding of Sharjah. The client explained that the Arabic typeface that they would like to commission was so integral to their brand personality and what they represented that they wanted to have a type designer right there from the start. This is a career first. Never before had I been invited in for the branding rather than just the type design. 

I don’t do branding, but I was floored by what it meant to this wonderful client, to put the Arabic language first. I invited Samar Maakaroun, now a partner at Pentagram, to join me on the project to handle the branding. And so, several years down the line, a new voice for Sharjah is unveiled and it speaks so beautifully in Arabic and Latin!

It is a great honour to design the typeface that carries the name of an Emirate, to give voice to the dreams and aspirations of the people living there. There is great responsibility when one designs for the past, present and future of a thriving metropolis. In a project of this scale, the best thing one can do is to listen to what words the client uses. To find the hints of what shapes we can look for, for the nuances of expression. It was a great pleasure to collaborate with Sharjah Government Media Bureau on this project and I look forward to see the fonts in use on my next visit there!

The concept for the typeface was to combine heritage with modernity, and to find that cultural heart for which Sharjah is well known for. The Arabic design is a mix of Naskh and Kufi and brings in some ligature structures in order to recall the movement of the pen, and to center the human within its design. The Latin design, drawn so beautifully by Malou Verlomme, extends the design while maintaining the same DNA. It’s a sans serif with a heart.

A distinctive aspect of the typeface, both in Arabic and Latin, is the integration of the window shape into the word Sharjah. This brings over the concept from the logo into the typeface. These distinctive letters (Latin lowercase a and Arabic Teh Marbouta) are only triggered for the name Sharjah, which also switches on to a slightly bolder weight in order to set it apart from the rest of the text. Both of these actions can also be unmade via stylistic sets available in the fonts, thus providing great flexibility in the usage of the fonts.