Ntsal’s chamber of design – the design wing of the Cairo-based studio – has produced the first custom typeface for an Egyptian bank with Boharat, the Arabic type foundry. The work is for one of the largest banks in the Egyptian private sector, CIB, and marks a growing shift in attitudes and approach in the commercial sector towards type design. In this case, Ntsal Cairo and Boharat have replaced CIB’s previous design approach, in which Arabic scripts followed Latin letterforms, by creating the two in parallel.
“The starting point while approaching this project was to create something that prioritises the language of the country the client operates from – in this case Arabic,” the studio tells us. “Ntsal’s collaboration with Boharat Type Foundry involved extensive research into Arabic typography, specifically in terms of drawing and proportions of the letters.”
CIB Custom Typeface is grotesque with multiple weights for use across different channels; it supports basic Latin and Arabic, as well as Western European characters, Urdu and Persian. Stylistically, it offers a fresh take on CIB’s original Naskh Arabic Script – the legible benchmark used for Arabic letterforms when typesetting long paragraphs.
The overarching aim for Ntsal and Boharat was to create a sense of harmony between both Arabic and Latin scripts. More specifically, the pair were trying to create a monolinear typeface that could work with the “organic flow of Arabic calligraphy”. On the journey to represent Arabic calligraphy authentically, one of the most important elements to work in was Kashida – a type of cursive justification used in Arabic script, whereby text can be elongated, rather than using empty space. Here, the goal was to create a curved extension, “which is a genuine humanistic feature of Arabic calligraphy”, says Ntsal.
CIB includes a number of features made for bank-specific usages. It is optimised for both high and low res screens, legible in small print sizes and has OpenType features for display purposes. This is useful when it comes to ATM screens and digital channels but also for annual reports and advertising.
For Ntsal, the landmark move from CIB to invest in type design at this scale says a lot; “We’re taking a moment to celebrate this whole thing. We’re enjoying the idea of type design getting more opportunities and becoming more recognized in Egypt,” the studio reflects. “A customised typeface offers a compelling opportunity for both designers and brands, to highlight the tonality and purpose of the brand across the different communication channels. Additionally, this positions CIB as pioneers in the Banking field in Egypt as they are the first Bank to have their own custom typeface.”
GalleryNtsal Cairo / Boharat: CIB Custom Typeface (Copyright © Ntsal Cairo, 2023)
Ntsal Cairo / Boharat: CIB Custom Typeface (Copyright © Ntsal Cairo, 2023)
About the Author
Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.