x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

A career designing communication between cultures

Master typographer and calligrapher Mourad Boutros, who is responsible for Expo 2020's logo, will discuss the ways type aids communication across cultures.

Mourad Boutros, a calligrapher and graphic designer from Lebanon whose work is known all over the Arabic-speaking world. Courtesy Emirates Airline Festival of Literature
Mourad Boutros, a calligrapher and graphic designer from Lebanon whose work is known all over the Arabic-speaking world. Courtesy Emirates Airline Festival of Literature

Anna Seaman

Don’t know the work of Mourad Boutros? Think again: the prominent Lebanese calligrapher and typo­grapher is the man who designed the Expo 2020 logo.

In Dubai this weekend for the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, Boutros will appear on a panel about calligraphy as well as participate in a session about its importance in the world of communication today.

Along with his wife Arlette, Boutros designed the font Boutros Advertisers Naskh in 1977 to work alongside the common Latin-alphabet font Helvetica.

Since then, it has been the most-used typeface for signs across highways, airports, hospitals and offices in the Arabic-speaking world. Patrons include Dubai and Riyadh international airports, 3M, The Bechtel Corporation, Al Arabiya news channel, Al Hayat newspaper and BBC Arabic. Boutros has also worked on two seminal books on the topic – Arabic for Designers (2007) and Talking about Arabic (2009), published by Thames & Hudson.

In 2011, he updated the font and in 2012 published a second edition of Arabic for Designers, with an expanded chapter on The Value of Cultural Knowledge, looking at ad campaigns that failed because of grammatical mistakes or an incomplete grasp of Arabic.

“The book is for western people who want to understand our culture,” says Boutros. “But, importantly, it also addresses the fact that there is no respect for Arabic typography in the Arab world. It is also about branding and translation on a wider scale. We live in a world that revolves around communication, so this topic affects everyone. How can you communicate effectively if the tool for communication is leading you in the wrong way?

“I think many Arabs don’t take enough time to look at these messages and it affects the whole Arabic-speaking area.”

• Calligraphy, Typography & the W orld of Communications Today is on Friday at 5pm; the calligraphy panel (Mourad Boutros, Long Kaisheng, Hassan Massoudy and Dave Wood) is at 11.30am on the same day. Visit www.emirateslitfest.com for more information

aseaman@thenational.ae