Today, we are joined by Ghada Wali , she is an Illustrator. You can view her portfolio here.
WHAT WAS THE FIRST TYPEFACE YOU FELL IN LOVE WITH?
Deﬁnetly DIN. DIN is an amazing typeface that suits just almost everything! Coming from a German Design school and being greatly inﬂuenced by the Bauhaus movement makes DIN my natural choice. DIN for me reﬂects the personality of the ultimate modern designer; being accurate, striving for the perfect and most of all : neutrality. It is also perfect for its simplicity, readability, the ability to remain legible even in smallest sizes and its multiple weight choice family. In addition to working great with many mediums, messages and design platforms. It also works wonderful in combination with illustration which is one of my main interests. Very strong in impact and contrast yet does not over power the design. In my opinion, DIN is timeless.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR PROUDEST PROJECTS EVER?
1. FILM IKHWANY
2. CAIRO’S NATIONAL CIRCUS
3. “MEEN HOMMA?”
CAN YOU BRIEFLY DESCRIBE WHAT THE CURRENT PROCESS IS LIKE FOR YOU TO CREATE A NEW TYPEFACE AND WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION FROM?
Creating typefaces is not an easy task. Especially when I am interested to create Arabic Typefaces. Thus, I will be talking about my process in creating an Arabic typeface. It could be divided into 5 consecutive stages. First, which is most important is Calligraphy; calligraphy is the origin of the Arabic script. It has been part of the script for a very long time and still is more relevant to the cursive rhythmic nature of the Arabic Script. Getting familiar with the rules of calligraphy, the pen strokes and the beauty of the letter skeletons. And most importantly researching/ﬁnding a historical calligraphy style/inspiration to follow and base the new typeface on, is a basic step to creating an understandable appealing typeface in our new world. Second, Lettering; Before drawing the letters directly on the computer, Sketching the set of letters is essential. Translating my concept onto paper is the only way to test, explore, solve and capture the essence of the typeface I am are about to create. Le ters are based on the rich encyclopedia of Arabic calligraphy (found in the archives of manu- scripts, sculptures, letters etc.) of the calligraphic style chosen. Bearing in mind the rules, speciﬁcations, stroke thickness of the Arabic letters. Most importantly, as contrast to Latin typefaces, is the need to create letters that work well together rather than being separately beautiful. Making sure that all the 29 detailed letter-forms (in their four variations : initial, medial, ﬁnal and isolated) have been established. After adding the other Arabic symbols, punctuations etc. They are approximately184 characters.
Third, Font-Lab; This is about the only well designed software that is familiar with the Arabic letters. Other software’s are by default Latin-based. Transferring my ﬁnalized sketches onto this software by scanning them in and digitally drawing them again to be able to work with digitized letter-forms in different formats that could work on several computer software’s. Taking into consideration, Spacing, letter endings and connections while continuously correcting and ﬁne-tuning the letters. The longest yet most important stage of type design. Followed by generating the actual font. Fourth, Testing;The only way the font could be evaluated is by printing it out in body text (if it is a body text font) or in headlines (if it is a display font) in different layouts, sizes in paragraphs, these tests are called specimen sheets. Now I can see the ﬂaws and the strengths of the font, judge its coherence and functionality within a real layout. This process is an ongoing process of testing-working again-testing . etc. until I reach the desired result. Living in a city like Cairo, inspiration is just everywhere! Everybody, Everything, Everywhere. I believe that inspiration has no distinctive speciﬁcations, its generated from absolutely inﬁnite and unpredictable sources. Inspiration could be extremely complex or as stupid as it might be.
WHAT WAS ONE OF THE MOST CHALLENGING TYPOGRAPHY PROBLEMS YOU HAVE EVER HAD TO SOLVE?
Being a graphic designer in the Arab world makes it a difﬁcult task. The lack of proper Arabic typefaces have been a problem facing me since I was a university student. I always wondered why aren’t enough Arabic typefaces in ratio to Latin ones? It is shocking to know that (according to a recent statistic survey) there are 72 Arabic fonts (well designed fonts) compared to thousands of Latin (and still counting). Finding a half acceptable Arabic typeface was and still is a hell of a job, not to mention being lucky to ﬁnd a fresh one. Then comes the problem of creating a bilingual logo or font. I’m not a fan of harmonizing Arabic fonts to create matching Latin fonts, instead I work on preserving and respecting the character of the Arabic letters as well as the Latins’. Working in advertising and dealing with multinational brands everyday makes it a very challenging task.
WHAT CONSTITUTES A GOOD IDENTITY MARK?
The deﬁnition of a brand is an open elusive concept, it has no speciﬁc boundaries or interpretation. A corporate identity is not only created to communicate a tangible product, in many cases its a service, a producer or even a person. A ‘functional’ brand identity is in my opinion communicates the brand personality, brand promise, unique selling point, and most importantly a brand that ‘honestly’ sells. Nowadays, a successful identity mark is not only about visual communication, it is about a real user-brand experience. A good brand identity is the one that does not only use appropriate well-designed concepts, logotypes, picture-marks, typefaces or colors but also a one that is able to go far beyond the tangible brand assets, such as the ethos, ambiance, brand strategy, consumer perception, corporate behavior, that surround their product. Real brands are ones that leave marks in people heads, the ones that interact, solve a problem or make their daily lives easier. “From the people, by the people, o the people.” is a great motto that I always keep in my head while working on identity projects. Cultural awareness is an essential asset that any designer should have. Designing brands that people could own and relate to is the only way we can make it in the constant bombardment and growth of brands. Establishing the brand through the different media either radio, TV, print, online or via activations is essential for a complete brand experience. When it comes to designing a logo, either a logotype or a pictogram based logo, simplicity is the key. The legibility, readability and ability to be remembered as well as creating a special unique association in addition to its relevance to the industry are all key factors to consider.
WHAT ARE SOME COMMON MISTAKES WHICH IDENTITY DESIGNERS MAKE?
Copying, is one of the major mistakes designers could fall into. Creating an identity by default means creating a new unique being. Copying market leaders does not mean gaining the same successes at all. Designers should always look for and magnify what makes their brand special even if it is a start-up. Irrelevance, designing is not a process of art, its main role is to serve the market. If the identity does not relate to the targeted audience nor the nature of the industry then it is a failure! Relevance is not only about the target group, but about choosing the typography, colors and elements that reﬂect the nature/industry of the brand correctly. Alignment with advertising agency (tone of voice), Advertising should be an additional strength tool that communicates the brand identity furthermore. Choosing campaigns that are irrelevant to the brand identity may cause inconsistency. Local Vs. Global, Living in a small world we live in right now, designing a brand that looks and is understood to a global market is a factor that enhances its lifetime, However, this must not be caught against its relevance to its original local target.
CAN YOU DETAIL THE IDENTITY DESIGN PROCESS AND HOW LONG THIS USUALLY TAKES?
The duration of the identity design process may vary from a project to the other depending on size, deliverable, industry, market and many other factors. In my world it is also mainly depending on very tight deadlines. However, I believe that a proper identity design process should take an average of 2 months period. Research is the ﬁrst step in the design identity process. Either if its market, visual or brand research, researching each and every aspect that has to do with this brand is the backbone of creating the right design identity and brand positioning. Competition, target group, brand history, its core values, weaknesses and strengths, previous works ..etc. Brainstorming after gathering the right brief and the right amount of information. Starts the stage of brainstorming and putting the brand character into theory. Naming, and character building come next. Visual concept deﬁning the design concept both in theory and design attributes such as color scheme, typography, image style, tone of voice, grid system ..etc. Putting the character into life. Application after deﬁning and executing the visual concept comes the stage of applying this concept on the brand applications in all required design platforms whether print, screen, online..Etc.
WHAT ARE COMMON CHALLENGES WHICH IDENTITY DESIGNERS ENCOUNTER?
Other than the client preferences. Designers face many other problems. Including not enough brand research, technical difﬁculties, project budget limitations, and the many mediums for design adaptations could be hard to execute. A well designed identity is the one that could be easily used on various mediums and applications both consistently and effectively. Creating guidelines that ﬁt each and every platform is deﬁnitely also one of the challenging tasks. This is even more common in case of an international brand, language barriers could also form a huge challenge. For example, creating a bilingual brand that feels, looks and even communicates the same to the consumer both in Arabic and English Language, may seem an easy task but is much more complex when it comes to application. Also creating a brand that is consistent and yet not boring nor predictable is another uneasy task. A lot of brands fall in the trap of following the holy identity guidelines without focusing on creativity, innovation and change. The target group is also a huge factor that identity designers need to consider, brands that target various segments are harder to design for than brands with speciﬁc/smaller target groups. In the world of brand clutter, differentiation from the market competition is also another challenge.
HOW DO YOU ACCOUNT FOR THE GREAT DISAGREEMENT OVER THE QUALITY OF IDENTITY MARKS EVEN AMONG IDENTITY DESIGNERS ?
Designers, Unfortunately, the world of identity designers does not constitute only of professionals nor design school graduates. The accessibility of quick online tutorials and easy-to-learn software’s have made the Adobe Creative suite a software that could be used by everyone. This results in an obvious decrease in quality of the produced work. Designing is not only about using the tools but the brains and theory behind every design decision taken. Design Schools, Coming from different design schools, backgrounds create major differences among identity designers. The inﬂuences, context and design education might create differences in the perception and assessment of works. The Explosion of brands, The daily increase of brands all over the world have made the word ‘quality’ a rare feature nowadays. Working in quantities will inevitably affect the quality negatively. Clients Unawareness, Shocking enough, many clients in various industries do not recognize the importance of their corporate identity. Thus hey do not invest heavily in branding or in design agencies, their budget is divided on other factors rather than design itself, resulting in lower quality work. Fast-moving World, Designers suffer from sudden briefs with very limited timelines. Clients have become more and more demanding as the market challenge increases everyday.
WHERE ARE SOME OF THE AREAS WHERE TYPOGRAPHY IS IMPROVING AND WHERE DO WE NEED TO SEE MORE GROWTH?
The Latin world of typography has been diversely improving during the past period. The accessibility, availability and diversity of options available to designers around the world has became a much easier task. The number of both free and payable type foundries that offer typefaces are increasing. However, this is a double edged weapon, the wide exposure of fonts have made them easy to steal, unprotected by copyrights and even used distorted or with changes that the type designers could not approve of. typography for screen use has been also having a leap in the last era. However, preserving and saving the ofﬂine world is also essential. Online archival of the undigitized typographic history legacies and artworks is necessary. Also other than reviving an old typeface type designers need to also focus on creating new ﬂavors that serve today’s needs. TIn my opinion the main area that needs great amount of growth is the world of Arabic typography. There are few type designers that work on creating proper Arabic typefaces, very limited software’s for creating them, mostly one strong Arabic type foundry in the world (KHTT foundation in Holland), not to mention the redundancy of Arabic fonts used in identity designs because there are only few of them that are well designed. Also, Arabic typography have not been introduced properly to screen and digital media platforms. Further- more, the number books written about Arabic typography is minuscule Finally, the bridge between Arabic calligraphy and Arabic typography have not been properly established. The fonts produced are either too modern, unconsidered the rules of Arabic calligraphy and losing the beauty of it or too calligraphic cannot adapt our daily modern digital world or copying western fonts. We should see more contributions between calligraphers and typographers.
HOW DO YOU VIEW THE STATE OF TYPEFACES IN THE MOBILE WORLD?
The mobile world is the future. The world is turning digitally and more work has to be drived into the mobile world. There has been many obvious successes in Latin typeface design in this area, yet again I’m still waiting for the recogni- tion of the Arabic typefaces in the mobile platforms as their presence is nearly null. The role of new emerging type designers is to ﬁnd a proper means of universal communication in that very small world which the mobile world have gotten us to. The digitally friendly Arabic typefaces need much more recognition and implementation.
TAKING INTO ACCOUNT SMALL SIZES, ALIASING AND BROWSER FONT RENDERING ENGINES, WHICH FONTS DO YOU THINK SHOULD BE USED FOR BODY TEXT ON THE WEB?
Anti-aliasing, which uses shades of grey to create the illusion of a curved edge, is effective for presenting text on screen at large sizes. At small sizes, however, anti-aliased text locks blurry. Many designers (and readers) prefer pixel fonts for text.
WHAT’S THE MOST OVERRATED FONT IN THE WORLD?
Helvetica in Latin and GE SS in Arabic!
LET’S TALK A LITTLE ABOUT THE CREATIVE PROCESS AND HOW YOU WORK. CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR IDEAL WORK ENVIRONMENT?
My creative process starts at the brand/client I am designing for. Spending time of research and inspiration from the actual thing (people/place/product/service) I am working on is an essential asset to producing real, relevant and honest story-telling designs, People (consumer) for me constitute the main drive and cause of any design project I’m about to embark. For example, one of the most enjoyable design journeys I have been through is when I was asked to redesign Cairo’s national Circus, where I chose to spend a full month with the performers and audience to study and explore their behaviour, where they talk about their experience in the place and their real stories. Spending the day in the circus; observing, recording, taking notes, taking pictures, running surveys, interviews etc. This process which in turn inspires and expands the horizon if any designer in building a great successful brand. Then comes brainstorming, moodboards, logo trials, colour choices, typeface design, poster designs, ap lications, activations..Etc. Of course in our very fast-mov- ing world, not all tasks I am assigned to could have a ﬂexible timeline for a full satisfactory journey. However, working in advertising have made me work effectively under a pressured working mode that requires fast and constant results in best qualities.