Reputations: Nadine Chahine
‘I wanted to discover if there was any value in simplification, in terms of legibility, and only research could tell me. This is where the science comes in; I needed numbers!’
Nadine Chahine is one of the most prolific and vocal contributors to the field of contemporary Arabic type design. She was among the first of a new wave of trail-blazing type designers who, in the early 2000s, made a concerted effort to move the discipline forward. Her work – which over the past fifteen years has grown to encompass both Arabic and Latin type design and academic legibility research – is significant in both practical and ideological terms.
Neue Helvetica Arabic (2009) was designed by Nadine Chahine for Linotype. Though generally well received, Chahine’s design provoked debate in certain circles regarding the extent to which Arabic counterparts to existing typefaces should follow the formal and geometric characteristics of their Latin forbears.
Anna Lisa Reynolds: Was there anything in your early education that propelled you towards a career in design?
Nadine Chahine: I grew up thinking I had no real artistic talent – my drawing skills are not good, I couldn’t sing or dance, and I wasn’t musical. Maths and sciences were my strengths. My dad is an architect, so I was exposed to architecture from an early age and had thought of going into architecture myself. But at the last minute I decided to study graphic design instead. For the first couple of years, I wasn’t sure that it was the right degree for me. But by the spring semester of the second year, we had Arabic typography as a module, and I loved it. That’s what made me stay. It clicked with me very quickly, the understanding of how black and white interacts, and the tension you need to look for between two shapes. I was hooked. And the teacher, Samir Sayegh, was unbelievably inspiring; he’s been my mentor ever since. If it hadn’t been for him, I was going to leave and do marketing.
Anna Lisa Reynolds, design writer, Brighton
Read the full version in Eye no. 94 vol. 24, 2017
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