by Paul D. Hunt
The ever-popular Myriad type family now has new Arabic and Hebrew members! These have recently been added as part of a suite-wide effort to provide better support for languages of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). These new typefaces were designed and developed by the Adobe type team in San Jose and have already be recognized for their excellence as one of the winners of the Letter.2 competition conducted by the Association Typographique Internationale. A core set of styles from these type families is bundled with Adobe Creative Suite 6 applications. This core set includes four basic styles: Regular, Bold, Italic, and Bold Italic. However, the type styles bundled with CS6 include only a small subset of the new Myriad Arabic and Myriad Hebrew type systems that were created to provide a wider range typographic options for designers. To preview and purchase additional styles or the full families, see our pages for Myriad Arabic and Myriad Hebrew. In the future, these pages will include glyph complement showings for the fonts, likewise full digital specimens with text showings are still forthcoming.
The initial impetus for extending the popular Myriad family to cover these scripts was that as the world of publishing is moving more and more to the digital realm, and we wanted to create a set of fonts that hold up well in screen-based reading environments. Our assumptions were that low-contrast fonts would hold up better in a wider set of these environments and that it would make sense to base these on the existing visual grammar of our popular Myriad typeface. However as Robert Slimbach took on the task of designing these extensions for Myriad, his primary goal was to design the Arabic and Hebrew so that they would function in the same manner as Myriad within the same environments. That is to say that these new additions were designed to work primarily in text, but also given enough character so that they will function well in display settings.
Arabic and Hebrew text types are almost exclusively calligraphic in nature. In approaching the work on this project, Robert applied the same design principles as were applied to the original Myriad design: he focused on incorporating subtle calligraphic undertones while adhering to the rules of formal sanserif letter construction. He experimented with finding just the right middle-zone heights for the Arabic characters, trying to retain the appearance of traditional proportions within a sanserif design without sacrificing clarity and legibility at reading sizes. Likewise, he took great care to match the apparent sizes of each script with the Latin so that they would all give the same relative impression in mixed script settings.
For Myriad Arabic, the fonts were necessarily set on a larger body to allow for sufficient interlinear space when typeset using default leading values. This means that the Arabic fonts will appear smaller when set at the same point size as other Myriad fonts. To compensate, the Myriad Arabic fonts should be scaled by a factor of 1.4 to match the size of Myriad Pro or Myriad Hebrew. Myriad Arabic supports Arabic script orthography for Arabic languages, Farsi, Urdu, Uyghur, Kazakh and Kyrgyz. The family comes in a range of five weights, from Light to Black. Although italics are not typically featured in Arabic typography, these styles are also available should they be desired.
Likewise, there is not a strong tradition for italic usage in Hebrew. In fact, there was no consensus even for which direction italics for Hebrew should incline. Again in an effort to make new typographic options possible, Robert designed both right- and left-leaning italic styles. And he didn’t stop there; he also designed a complementary cursive family with upright and oblique styles. Each of these variants features a range of four weights from Light to Bold. Myriad Hebrew supports Hebrew, Yiddish, and Ladino languages and features careful nikkud placement for all styles. Fonts for Arabic and Hebrew also include Latin transliteration glyphs for a variety of latinization schemes.
In order to get all of the script-specific details correct for Arabic and Hebrew, the Adobe type team worked closely with native design experts. Robert’s design efforts and the production team’s engineering work was guided primarily by Mamoun Sakkal on the Arabic and by Scott-Martin Kosofsky for the Hebrew. Additional input was provided by Tiro Typeworks and Monotype’s resident Arabic expert, Kamal Mansour. I was personally involved throughout this process on a more technical level. I worked with our advisors to iron out technical issues and complex Arabic script implementations. I myself was aided in production support by Miguel Sousa, who helped me with scripting and developing solutions for complex font issues. I would personally like to thank these people along with our beta testers who provided invaluable input to us. I am very proud of the results of our efforts and hope that many of you will appreciate what I see as a valuable contribution to Arabic and Hebrew graphic arts.