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Name: FF DIN Arabic
Designers: Yanone (shorthand for Jan Gerner)
Foundry: FontFont
Release Date: February 26, 2016

Back story: In 2014, FF DIN Arabic was commissioned as the fourth Arabic type family in the FontFont library. Unlike most Arabic type families, it features a condensed version in addition to its regular width, which presents a challenge when it comes to addressing two distinct styles of Arabic lettering, Kufi and Naskh, while also honoring the written language’s overall calligraphic origins.

The more geometric Kufi styles, inspired by ornamental lettering in patterns, tiles, and architecture, have squared shapes and open counters that allow them to be condensed with relative ease. In contrast, Naskh and Thuluth cursive styles have organic, flowing shapes with wider, more expansive proportions. The horizontal heaviness of the strokes, paired with small internal counters that tend to close up when the horizontal proportions are reduced, make it tricky to devise a readable condensed version of these styles. 

Why’s it called FF DIN Arabic? This typeface was designed as a companion to the range of Albert-Jan Pool’s widely used FF DIN family that already supports Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic alphabets. It seems fitting that Yanone, a German type designer, is the creator of an Arabic version of DIN. In 1931 the German standards body DIN, Deutsches Institut für Normung (German Institute for Standardization), published DIN 1451, consisting of several standard typefaces that were used on road signage and license plates in Germany and a number of other countries.

What are its distinguishing characteristics? FF DIN Arabic has a full range of condensed weights and comes in three variants with square, circular, and rhombus-shaped dots. Yanone says, “The regular weights of FF DIN Arabic originated from handwriting and are explicitly based on a simplified Naskh skeleton. To create the condensed version, I started with those shapes and applied the language of the Latin DIN Condensed to it… Apart from one single glyph, any resemblance with Kufi is coincidental, and I’d like to see it more as a Naskh derivative than an actual hybrid.”

What should I use it for? The compression of this typeface’s Naskh-based design allows designers to fit as many words as possible into long headlines otherwise difficult to deal with in Arabic fonts. It’s also useful on signage.

Who’s it friends with?  FF DIN Arabic take a nicely complementary approach to Linotype’s two popular typefaces Arabic DIN Next, designed by Nadine Chahine, and Isra, which both have more of a kinship to Kufi styles.