‘Internationally Austrian’, published in TYPO 41, 84–85, 2010
My fascination with typography and typeface design had its beginnings during my studies at the Graphische in Vienna, one of Austria’s leading design schools. As it is often the case, it was not the institution as a whole, but the influence of one teacher that had the most lasting impact on me. Although typography was inadequately represented in the curriculum (and as I’ve learned to my disappointment, it is currently further reduced), the lessons with Martin Tiefenthaler were a highlight during my education. It was due to his teachings that my interest in typeface design was triggered, nurtured, and eventually pursued on a higher level at the University of Reading, UK.
During my master of Typeface Design, not only were my initial curiosity and interest in typography elevated onto a professional level, more importantly, I was encouraged and supported to pursue another interest of mine: non-Latin scripts. Having studied Russian for eight years at secondary school, the Cyrillic script suggested itself as an obvious choice – and thanks to Gerry Leonidas, I realised that the obvious choice was not necessarily the most interesting for me. Although more daunting, the Arabic script – another personal interest – promised a richer learning experience.
Since then, I have never regretted this decision. The Arabic script and all the questions pertaining to the subject of multilingual typeface design and typography have become my field of research, the speciality I am consulted with, the domain I receive acclaim in, the passion that allows me to travel the world. My two multi-script typeface families for Arabic and Latin script, Aisha and Nassim, both won TDC² awards and other significant recognitions in the field. Nassim currently ships as a Tasmeem font and both typefaces will be released as extensive OpenType families later this year. Parallel to my independent work I provide consultancy and expertise as a freelance designer for projects such as the Al-Jazeera Children Channel typeface developed with Fontsmith.
In addition to my practice as designer, I was able to develop a second leg as a teacher in various schools. I taught at the Virginia Commonwealth University of Qatar and am currently lecturer at the École supérieure d’art et de design d’Amiens in France and the École supérieure des arts visuelles in Marrakesh, Morocco. In both institutions we are building dedicated programmes of typographic education on undergraduate and postgraduate levels alike.
What has started as an interest during my design education in Vienna has become a full-time job for me. Maybe it is a virtue of coming from a small country without relevant typographic history that allows me to navigate and participate in this wide a range of contexts. This wealth of influences is the most rewarding experience for me and I am constantly trying to learn and take-in from these changing surroundings. It comes as no surprise that exposure to mentalities, practices and thinking from Austria to the UK, Syria, Qatar, France, Morocco and most recently Australia have had a profound impact on my own endeavours. If I am able to digest, transform, communicate and eventually pass-on what comes from this, I will feel satisfied that I have been able to contribute something valuable.