MIA type is a contemporary, bilingual Arabic and Latin type-family based on the Eastern Kufic calligraphic style drawn in four weights: Light, Regular, Bold, and Black.
The Museum of Islamic Art building is one of the most iconic landmarks in Doha. The renowned architect, I.M Pei, designed the museum with clear inspiration from Islamic architecture. He wanted to find the essence of Islamic architecture and to uncover its pure forms. The central courtyard of Ahmad Ibn Tulun mosque in Cairo and Monastir Fort in Tunisia were some of the structures that represented for him the purity and spirit of Islamic architecture.
When the time came to work on the corporate type for the museum contracted by the Qatar Museum Authority (QMA), I partnered with Landor Dubai, since they were handling the overall redesign of the branding. Their design brief was based on the idea of “The Cube; The House of Wisdom; The House of Art & Culture”. The cube perspective structure, which is inspired from the architecture of the building, became the base unit for the creation of a contemporary arabesque grid that in turn became the concealed structure for the whole new corporate identity of the museum including the custom typeface.
Inspired from I.M Pei’s research on the essence of Islamic architecture, I took on the challenge of finding the essence of Arabic calligraphy. I undertook extended research on Archaic Kufic and Eastern Kufic since the Kufic script is the essence of Arabic calligraphy. Arabic calligraphy books focusing on manuscript analysis and studies like “Splendors of the Quran Calligraphy & illumination” by Martin Ling and “Ink and Gold: Islamic Calligraphy” by Fraser & Kwiatkowski were the start of my extensive research for the unique Arabic letterforms. Manuscript images compiled from photographs I took in museums around the world in the past years alongside web image databases became valuable sources for the inspiration and sketching phases.
After an analytical study of the manuscripts, I produced a matrix documenting the different letter shapes of each of the 29 Arabic letters. I made several drawings for each glyph in order to find the proper solution for the design problematic. The glyphs had to be developed based on the aforementioned grid, have unique postures, and stay legible and easily recognizable for fast reading. The contrast between the light and shadows in the museum building is transformed into the contrast between the thick and thin pen strokes found in the letters. The heavy letters’ heads, loops, and bowls were contrasted with the type’s ultra-thin finials and terminals.
Since the Light and Regular weights were going to be set mostly for running text, we decided to keep them mono-linear in order to preserve legibility. The typeface already has unorthodox letterforms, which are not very familiar to the standard reader, and adding slight contrast to the Light weights would have hindered the reading experience even further.
The Bold and Black on the other hand have extreme contrast between the thin and thick strokes since they will be used primarily for display setting and in large sizes. The contrast in the heavy weights gives the font an elegant serious feel, bringing it closer to the traditional Eastern Kufic style.
The Arabic and Latin glyphs were drawn simultaneously to ensure the design concept and grid structure worked properly in both scripts.