Nadine Chahine is an extraordinarily talented and accomplished designer of Arabic scripts. She is motivated by her love of her native Beirut, as well as a desire to improve Arabic literacy and typographic design. Chahine’s first encounter with type design was an Arabic typography course taught by the master calligrapher Samir Sayegh at the American University of Beirut. While setting text in one of Sayegh's Kufi typeface designs for an assignment, she proposed changes to the face, and developed from it an entirely new design. After graduating, she specialized in type design with the Typeface Design Masters Degree at Reading, UK; while there Chahine developed the Koufiya typeface.
Nadine maintains a strong personal and professional connection to Lebanon. “Beirut is the heart of my work,” she says, and when she received the opportunity to redesign the city's leading Arabic-language newspaper, An-Nahar, in her own words, “I was waiting for the bus, and if it were not for the people around, I would have started jumping up and down.”
The typeface she designed for the paper was revealed in 2005, and named for the paper's editor and publisher Gebran Tueni, who was tragically killed in December of that year. Despite the tragedy and historical difficulties affecting her hometown, Chahine says, “Beirut is a city with a troubled history, but it is one that has so much energy, beauty and resilience that it’s constantly pulling itself up. It is a city full of life, and type is the voice. I want a Beirut that has a strong voice and a hopeful future. I do not see a distinction between typography and its context. If we work for better typography, then maybe we can affect change on a larger scale.”
The An-Nahar project adds to a number of high-profile designs Nadine has completed; prior to joining Linotype, she had started an Arabic companion to the Frutiger typeface. The face was described by Adrian Frutiger – the famed designer of Frutiger – as having “a touch of genius”. Nadine worked with Frutiger on the typeface, completing Frutiger Arabic in 2007, then collaborating again with him to design a companion to Univers. The ensuing design – Univers Next Arabic – was released in 2011.
While at Linotype Chahine worked with Hermann Zapf to revive an Arabic face of his from the 1950s, which eventually became the Arabic companion to Palatino Nova, released in 2007. Chahine and Zapf collaborated again on the design of Palatino Sans Arabic, which was released in 2010; both Palatino Arabic and Palatino Sans Arabic won awards for design excellence from the Type Directors Club of NYC.
Released in 2009, Nadine designed the Arabic companion to Neue Helvetica, bringing one of the world's key typefaces to the Arabic world. She describes the process of designing an Arabic Helvetica as being her “Everest,” bringing a neutral design to (in her words) a “volatile” script. The design would have to remain true to the aesthetics of the Arabic script, while remaining consistent with the optical sizes and weights of the Latin letterforms in order to retain the character of Helvetica. Of the final design, released in 2009, Chahine said “this is a no nonsense typeface. Its voice is calm and authoritative. Its design is, finally, neutral.”
Nadine continues to develop and contribute to the field of Arabic type. Through her PhD research, she is studying issues with the legibility of Arabic with an eye to improving literacy in the Arabic world. As a capstone to her string of recent successes, in May 2012 Chahine was named as one of Fast Company Magazine’s 100 Most Creative Individuals in Business.
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