Lyon Arabic Text in use for Arabesque, an exhibition by Rayyane Tabet at the Storefront for Architecture in New York.

Name: Lyon Arabic
Designers: Arabic: Khajag Apelian and Wael Morcos. Latin: Kai Bernau.
Foundry: Commercial Type
Release Date: July 2020

Back Story: After two years of research and development, the Lyon Arabic type family joins its Latin counterpart, Lyon Text Roman, which began as Kai Bernau’s degree project at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. Khajag Apelian and Wael Marcos drew the companion font from scratch to echo two distinct Arabic scripts: Naskh characters, preferred for typesetting long texts, and Nastaliq’s more fluid glyphs traditionally used in headlines or display type in Arabic speaking countries. (In India and Pakistan, Nastaliq is often used as a text face appreciated for its optical density at small sizes, thanks to its tightly linked characters.) The designers took care to blend tradition and innovation to add a fresh option to the contemporary Arabic typographic palette.

“We created one design with two flavors that work in different ways to create hierarchies in complicated layouts,” Morcos says. The calligraphic letterforms of Lyon Arabic relate beautifully to those of Lyon Text Roman, whose shapes are influenced by the typefaces of French Renaissance master designer Robert Granjon.

What are its distinguishing characteristics? “The special thing about Lyon Arabic is the addition of a slanted companion,” says Morcos. “We made sure to call it slanted, not italic: Instead of just skewing the design, we drew a custom slanted version inspired by Nastaliq to bring fluidity and angularity to the letterforms.” The font represents a fresh approach to an Arabic typeface by blending characteristics of the traditional Naskh and Nastaliq scripts, carefully balancing them for both functionality and aesthetic qualities, then introducing a new angle via the slanted version (with apologies for the pun).

Designers will find that Lyon Arabic Slanted’s varied rhythm and angles, plus its overall texture, nicely differentiate content within one layout. The Slanted does just fine as a stand-alone style, too, and works well for in-line emphasis. Mirroring the underlying bones of the Latin font, the Arabic characters’ streamlined constructions and straightforward details provide crisp texture and a robust appearance that are easy on the eye even at small sizes.

What should I use it for? Lyon Arabic is perfect for typesetting long texts and books. A display version of Lyon Arabic is currently in the works, with release scheduled for early 2021.

What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? Lyon Text Roman, obviously! It also makes a fine companion for Mercury Text. For a sans-serif option, try News Gothic.

100% Cotton Jacquard Woven Blanket, 54in x 72in

Bonus Round: In the aftermath of the devastating explosion in Beirut earlier this month, Morcos and Apelian designed this beautiful blanket with the slogan “Beirut in My Heart” (typeset in Lyon Arabic, of course) to raise funds for the Lebanese Red Cross and Helem, a Beirut-based LGBTIQ organization.