by Ilene Strizver
There are arabesques in music and arabesques in ballet, but in the world of type and design, arabesque is the name given to the whole category of graphic ornaments and embellishments. Also called printer’s flowers and fleurons, these decorative elements have been used by designers and printers since the invention of moveable type. Arabesques range from simple geometric designs to ornate configurations of intertwining leaves and flowers. The more traditional arabesques are often digital recreations or interpretations of historic designs, while others bring this delightful practice of yesteryear unapologetically into the twenty-first century. Type designers sometimes create arabesques that are specifically designed to accompany their typefaces.
Once you start playing with arabesques, it’s hard to stop! Try using them to
- separate paragraphs or sections of text
- mark the end of an article (this is often referred to as an end mark)
- create visual texture and interest by setting a tinted arabesque as a “watermark” placed behind the copy
- make borders or large graphic images by combining arabesques (think of the designs on the backs of playing cards)
When combining arabesques, use your application’s tracking, leading, and alignment features (flush left or right, justified or centered) to control the spacing.
Arabesques have countless uses – the key is to play with them and have fun. Don’t be afraid to mix up the elements and combine them into unexpected patterns. When it comes to these versatile graphic elements, the number of configurations is limited only by your imagination.
Other Arabesque Typefaces
ITC Bodoni Ornaments
ITC Founders Caslon Ornaments
ITC Golden Cockerel Ornaments
ITC Japanese Garden
Type Embellishments One, Two & Three
Arabesque and Rococo Ornaments
- Editor’s Note:Ilene Strizver, founder of The Type Studio, is a typographic consultant, designer and writer specializing in all aspects of typographic communication. She conducts Gourmet Typography workshops internationally. Read more about typography in her latest literary effort, Type Rules! The designer's guide to professional typography, 3rd edition, published by Wiley & Sons, Inc. This article was commissioned and approved by Monotype Imaging Inc.