The proposed, multi-disciplinary research will reveal best practice in Arabic typography, filling a current knowledge gap, and will culminate in publication of a guide to Arabic typography which draws on historical precedent. The researcher will investigate best practice from the 1840s to the 1910s, an era which represents a high point in Arabic typography, which was subsequently obscured by mechanisation. In this key period, Middle Eastern printers, versed in the customs of a sophisticated manuscript culture successfully adopted Western typesetting technology to give birth to Arabic print culture. Using archival sources, found in major research libraries and collections, the researcher will investigate printed items for their materiality, strategies in the structuring of information, and patterns of typographic design. High-resolution imaging tools and digital reconstruction techniques will be used to analyse specificities of Arabic design for reading, conventions of different textual genres, and micro-typographic considerations relating to legibility and craft. From this basis of historical research, and scientific excellence, the researcher will apply a practitioner’s lens, extending new knowledge beyond academic discourse. Through the engagement of professional peers, higher education, and the IT industry, he will involve potential end users of the research findings, and initiate a two-way exchange of knowledge. The project will contribute substantially to: an evolving typographic practice that currently lacks a discursive component; design course curricula worldwide; and to advancing Arabic text composition on digital devices. It will use diverse communication channels – the guide directed at peers and students; journal articles that contribute to academic discourse; conference presentations targeting industry; a blog and social media activities that reach out to the wider public – to engage a multitude of potential users and maximise this project’s reach.
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