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Name: Zellige
Designer: Pedro Leal
Foundry: DSType
Release Date: January 2017

Back story: The designers at DSType spend most of their time in the office perfecting typefaces meant for editorial environments—huge projects that often require developing hundreds of complementary weights at a time. This sort of work requires a laserlike focus, a great deal of trial and error, repetition, and revisions, and a certain serious corporate mindset. Creating the ornate and lovely Zellige, inspired by the ornamental tile work seen all across sunny Morocco, was like a little vacation from that exacting process. Like its inspiration, Zellige can be typeset in tiles to create intricate modular patterns.

Why’s it called Zellige? Zellige is the Arabic name for a form of the terracotta tile work so characteristic of Moroccan architecture,” says Leal.

What are its distinguishing characteristics? Leal says, “We started by designing a small set of fifteen tiles which we combined to obtain all the available characters and ornaments. So when you look at any element of this typeface, you are actually looking at nine individual tiles arranged on a three by three grid.” He envisioned Zellige as four character sets of letters and ornaments, with nearly limitless possibilities for layering and coloring the patterns for a variety of results. Applying soft colors creates a dainty appearance reminiscent of old-fashioned lace tablecloths, and switching to brights and darks suddenly shifts the mood to very mod.

What should I use it for? Zellige’s big, bold, beautiful letterforms shine best in display environments, such as a single character on a wine bottle label or a couple of words in a poster. “Just remember that size really matters when using this typeface,” says Leal. “As you increase in size, you can increase the complexity of the design.”

Who’s it friends with? Since Zellige does all of the ornamental work by itself, pair it with a clean geometric sans-serif typeface such as Firme, one of those DSType designs created to be especially suited for corporate and editorial use. Is using them together the definition of working vacation?