Back Story: Israel’s public space harbors a multilingual mashup of English, Hebrew and Arabic signage elbowing each another for attention, with little thought for visual harmony. “I grew up in Haifa, a city that is well known for a use of multiple scripts, but I never studied Arabic,” Turkenich says. “At some point I realized that while looking at signs I was ignoring the Arabic text as content, and just looking at the forms of the letters. It bothered me, so I wanted to create a typeface that would force people (including me) to give the same respect to both scripts.”
Why’s it called Aravrit? Aravrit is a portmanteau of the Hebrew words aravit, meaning Arabic, and ivrit, meaning Hebrew.
What are its distinguishing characteristics? Aravrit represents a kind of sophisticated typographic parlor trick: in Arabic, only the top halves of the letterforms are needed for readability—sentences are legible even if the bottom half of the characters are completely erased. (True for English, too—try it!) Hebrew is the opposite—a reader requires just the bottom halves of the letterforms for comprehension. Turkenich’s utopian project slices the letterforms horizontally and blends them into singular characters legible to speakers of either language, visually addressing her hope for peaceful co-existence.
Each Aravrit character is composed of the top half of an Arabic letter stacked onto the bottom half of a Hebrew one, allowing readers to choose a preferred language without ignoring the other. One of Turkenich’s goals was to maintain legibility while preserving the characteristics of the two scripts by retaining key identifying features, necessitating some design adjustments in both languages. Because most words in Hebrew and Arabic don’t share the same sounds and letters (for example the word “language” is safa in Hebrew and lura in Arabic), the designer created a glyph for every possible letter pair.
What should I use it for? Aravrit is designed to fit a wide range of purposes: any use of Hebrew, Arabic or both, for display in headlines, signage, and specific words.
What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? “Since Aravrit is more of a writing system it can join with any style of typeface,” says Turkenich. “It can be more traditional or informal, more flowing or structured.” In other words, it plays nice with everyone. Goal achieved!