Universes in Universe

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Interview with Tarek Atrissi about his online platform for Arabic typography and design.
By Pat Binder & Gerhard Haupt | Sep 2004

Haupt & Binder: When and with what in mind did you conceive Arabictypography.com?

Tarek Atrissi: The website was officially launched in the summer of 2001. It was a project that began as my thesis study at the art school in Utrecht, in the Netherlands. But soon it developed beyond the academic framework, and it reached the point where it took on a form of its own.

First of all, I wanted to create a good Arabic website and integrate Arabic typography as the site’s most important visual language. In general, the Arabic pages offered in the Internet are rather weak. That’s why I wanted to prove that websites in this language can also be effective, visually attractive and technically well-made.

Apart from that, the project was directed at the lack of Arabic typefaces in the modern media, something that leads back to the absence of an Arabic association for typography. That’s why the website should function as an online platform for communication, and as a means of exchanging information among Arab specialists. But it should also present graphic design tendencies from the Arab world to the western public, since these tendencies are barely recognized on the international level.

H&B: Could you briefly explain what one finds in the sections "experimental" and "research"?

TA: The first section presents experimental works with Arabic typography. So you have, for example, a typographic animation and the video of a calligrapher at work. Here every type of typographic project imaginable could be shown, whether intended for print, the Internet or other new media.

Under "research," information material is collected and made available. These can be articles, interviews, print collections, research works, reading suggestions, or historical examples and sources.

H&B: How can others participate in this project?

TA: That can happen any number of ways. Online visitors can sign-in once as members free of charge, have their contact data published on the designated pages, and receive the newsletter. People can also actively participate through the forum, or by sending works, articles and other relevant materials that correspond with the website’s goals.

H&B: As someone already a successful artist, what would you suggest to graphic designers or artists of the younger generation still forging their path?

TA: They should understand that young designers in the Arab world have many opportunities. The fields of design and typography are relatively new, and for that reason they offer an almost unlimited number of possibilities. I would simply suggest that they make use of the untapped energy in order to try something new – and develop their own original contributions. And while doing so, they should be aware of the Arab world’s beauty, its cultural uniqueness and visual language. Only by understanding that can they produce work that truly reflects the environment they live in, with unique works unlike those created elsewhere. Design and the Internet are strong mediums for distributing powerful ideas and convincing concepts. I want to strengthen young people's awareness of the power of graphic design, and of its potential to communicate their own personal opinions regarding things social, cultural and political, and all other matters.


Pat Binder & Gerhard Haupt

Publishers of Universes in Universe - Worlds of Art and of Nafas Art Magazine. Based in Berlin, Germany.

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