Unified:for better and for worse


Our senior project was to work on one of the briefs of the ISTD competition and the brief I had chosen was ‘Et tu, Brute?’. We were asked to design a ‘collecable’ publication which takes cognizance of the world of typographic practice, both historical and contemporary.

In my case The study of the history of Arabic typography led to a series of interconnected facts:
Gutenburg’ invention of metal type (1400s) • printing Arabic books in Europe • printing Arabic books in the middle east (East meets West) • need for simplification of the Arabic writing system • 1936 conference by the academy of Arabic language­— reform projects • Nasri Khattar’s proposal (1947).


Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of printing from individual pieces of movable cast type in Western Europe revolutionized the printing industry. The key element was to create adjustable moulds that allowed for easy removal of each cast letter. Parallel to this thinking, in the Arab eastern region, many reform movements approached the issue of evolving from calligraphy to typography. Amongst many, Nasri Khattar’s approach seemed to be drawn on the light of Gutenberg’s method; creating a limited set of unified detached movable characters for simplification and ease of use.

Yet, those seemingly unconnected facts diverged due to the technological and cultural developments pertaining to visual communication since the industrial revolution. This industrial revolution that took western cultures by storm in
the 19th century was slow to reach the Arab world, and therefore to help develop its visual calligraphic craftsmanship culture into a fully independent industrial field.


The simplified writing system and typeface created by Nasri Khattar is entitled the ‘Unified Arabic’. Similarly, what Gutenberg introduced was a unification that produced one sibgle glyph for each letter, thus title of this publication was set to be ‘Unified’. Short and simple, the title adds ambiguity to the collectable and creates interest for the viewer to figure out the link within, and demonstrate the unity between Arabic and Latin.
The subtitle ‘for better and for worse’, is a sentence used during the marriage of two entities, in this case the Arabic and the Latin. It is a pun which indicates the fact that Khattar’s ‘Unified Arabic’ was a good solution for some but an unsatisfactory for others.


Explore posts in the same categories: Arabic Type, Typography

6 Comments on “Unified:for better and for worse”

  1. greta Says:

    Mr. Kajo! Your research on the evolution of Arabic type with comparison to Latin type sounds very interesting! I like the format of the publication and your typographic treatments on the page! Nice work!

  2. Hrayr Says:

    Comment 😉

  3. Thank you very much for including Nasri Khattar’s work in your project. It is with great interest that your Web page came to me through a Google Alert that I have set up for “Nasri Khattar” (my father) and for “Unified Arabic.”

    You incorporated my father’s earlier work dating from 1947 into your project, and I am most appreciative. However, I would like you to know that over the years – he passed away in 1998 in Beirut, Lebanon – his thinking evolved to include a variety of type systems, based on his initial “Unified Arabic (TM)” design. His most revolutionary work includes connected yet unified characters that he also digitized, ready for the computer. They follow ASMO 449 standards, and could be easily implemented today. For lack of time and resources, I have not yet launched them on the market so they are not today visible by the public.

    I look forward to further discussion with you through this Web site or directly by e-mail.

    Sincere regards and warmest thanks,
    Camille Khattar Hedrick
    Daughter of Nasri Khattar
    camille at unifiedarabicalphabet dot com

  4. kjapelian Says:

    Thank you very much Camille to post a comment. It was so much pleasure to work in the arabic typography field and especially to emphasize on Mr. Nasri Khattar’s work. I have learned and evolved a lot.

    My work has been sent to London to be assessed by the ISTD Jury. I Hope i get accepted in the committee, I will let you Updated on this topic.

    I am so interrested to know more about your Father’s other works, such as the connected yet unified characters, and i suppose many others sharing my interrest would want to know to. It would be nice if you post an article on our blog, where people can view and comment and so have a nice discussion.

  5. almo amman Says:

    Where could we get that book?

  6. kjapelian Says:

    The publication was a university project so there was only one copy of it that was sent to London for the ISTD student assessment scheme in 2007, and which was awarded with a merit.

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