Tajawal’s typeface gets global distribution by Google
Posted on 2018 May,04

When tajawal, the fastest growing online travel platform in the Middle East, decided to develop a new brand identity, it chose the leading Arabic calligraphy and typography experts, the Boutros Group to handle all aspects of the typography involved. In a talk with ArabAd, Tajawal’s CEO Muhammad Chbib discusses the new brand identity and the travel platform’s commitment to Arabic culture and calligraphy. Mourad Boutros of Boutros Group elaborates further on the specificity of this new type, while Google’s Dave Crossland explains the reasons that pushed Google to partake in this project and include tajawal among the Free Open Source typefaces available for everybody worldwide.


ArabAd: What prompted your decision to develop a new brand identity and a typeface in particular?

“We would like to see many more upcoming Arabic brands follow a similar path and spread high quality typography from the MENA region to the rest of the world.”

Muhammad Chbib: We carefully studied the market and identified the segments that made sense for us to tackle. There is a big gap between generic offerings, mostly targeting English-speaking expatriates, and catering to the local needs of the majority of the Arabic speaking population of the region. We wanted to create a brand that caters specifically to those needs. As part of our all-encompassing branding exercise, we were also looking for a typeface that is modern and rooted in our Arabic heritage at the same time.

AA: How does a typeface help meet your business objectives?

MC: It is one of the main brand components. We believe that a strong brand has to be recognised through all media and all channels. The typeface plays a key role in that. If you look at the major players in most market sectors, they are nearly all marketing-led and they put a lot of effort into commissioning or licensing typefaces that are an integral part of their brand identity. We are following the same route.

AA: What would you say were the benefits of the typeface being available for worldwide free distribution on the Google Fonts website?

MC: We believe in the Open Source concept in general. Our IT work is shared in certain communities because on one hand we are proud of it, and on the other hand, we want people to benefit from the innovations we work on. We are very proud of our tajawal font and we would love to see it spread around the globe. Google has become the de facto standard free library for high quality fonts and we feel it is the best channel for us to spread the word.

AA: Is there anything else that you would like to add?

MC: We would like to see many more upcoming Arabic brands follow a similar path and spread high quality typography from the MENA region to the rest of the world.

The Boutros Group has led the field of Arabic creativity, typography, calligraphy and design for more than 40 years. Based in London, the company has long served the needs of the Arabic-speaking world, as well as of international corporations seeking to communicate with the Arabic market. Projects have ranged from the creation of Arabic typeface collections for internationally renowned software and design houses to corporate Arabic logotypes and private commissions. The Boutros Group has provided expertise to IBM, Apple, Alarabiya, the MBC group and the BBC, to name just a few. Its founders, Mourad and Arlette Boutros are widely acknowledged as two of the world’s most outstanding Arabic calligraphers, designers and typographers.

AA: What first interested you in this project and why?

Mourad Boutros: We have had tajawal for some years now as a client. The company has its roots in Arabic culture and has a passion for Arabic calligraphy and typography. Moreover, there is no better way to support a typographical project such as this than worldwide distribution through Google Fonts.

AA: What are the special features of the typeface?

MB: It is a distinctive modern Arabic typeface, available in seven weights. The range was created by Boutros following a modern geometric style, while still respecting Arabic calligraphy rules. Its fluid geometry makes tajawal the perfect choice to use in web applications, and alongside its matching Latin typefaces.

AA: Do you regard this project as a commercial exercise?

MB: It is both a commercial and a cultural exercise. The main aim is to spread awareness of Arabic calligraphy and typography on a worldwide basis.

AA: Is there anything else that you would like to add?

MB: Hopefully, we have paved the way for more original work and the generation of new ideas for the benefit of all.

AA: How did Google become involved with this project?

Dave Crossland: Mourad approached me to propose this typeface, and after reviewing the design I accepted it. Google’s mission is to make the web more beautiful, fast, and open through great typography. We believe the best way to bring personality and performance to websites and products is through great design and technology. We are working with designers around the world to distribute best-in-class typeface designs that are made for the web.

AA: Why did you select tajawal’s new typeface for your catalogue?

DC: It is good quality, and supports both the Arabic and Latin writing systems. All new fonts have to be vetted by our team of designers and engineers. Once this has been done, we aim to showcase individual type designers and foundries, providing valuable information about the people and their processes, as well as analytics on usage and demographics.

AA: What is the reason for Google’s decision to make Free Open Source typefaces available for everybody worldwide?

DC: Open source licensing means that end users can share favorites and collaborate easily with friends and colleagues. It also means that anyone can look at the source files to learn how they are made, and report any issues they encounter and discuss how to resolve them.

AA: Why don’t you pay designers?

DC: While we do pay designers on a case by case basis, we do appreciate the contributions and donations from the wider community such as this font family.

AA: Is there anything else that you would like to add?

DC: Fonts are complex and we encourage users to report any issues they encounter with any font available from Google Fonts on the Github issue tracker.