Naïma Ben Ayed

Dalton Maag Ltd, UK


Maghreban specificities, past and present: a closer look at typography and calligraphic heritage in the Maghreb


Dialects spoken in the Maghreb region differ largely from those spoken in the Levant or the Arabian Peninsula. Within North Africa, languages vary as well. Darija, spoken in Morocco, is a mix of Arabic, Berber, Spanish, and French, and is unique to the Moroccan people. In the written form of language, some letter variations existed historically and can still be seen in use. Looking at history, calligraphic forms in the West have evolved in a very different way than in the East, with no standardisation process. The Maghrebi style, that evolves from the Kufi style, has developed from the western side of North Africa to Islamic Spain. This talk will present a glimpse of its numerous variations. If we consider the current typographic state of the region, there are specific design challenges concerning script cohabitation. In Morocco, Tifinagh alphabet is now in use alongside Arabic and Latin, since 2011 when Berber became an official language in the country. We can see more and more trilingual signage and publications, but we are not so aware of a graphic- and type-design scene in the Maghreb. What does contemporary graphic culture look like in North Africa? We will look at a few examples exploring local identity and culture in the region such as the recent Typographic Matchmaking in the Maghreb project.


Naïma Ben Ayed is a graphic and type designer from France. She graduated from Estienne school in Paris. After working as a graphic designer and typographer in France, she moved to London in 2012. Since then she has been working at Dalton Maag type foundry as a designer. There, she specialised in Arabic and Latin design. She has led multiple custom design projects covering a range of purposes, from UI to newspaper and display. She also creates retail fonts and in 2015 she designed a simplified Maghrebi font. She was recently part of the Typographic Match-Making in the Maghreb project, curated by Huda Abi Fares from the Khatt Foundation. Together with Redouan Chetuan, they designed a typeface covering Arabic, Tifinagh and Latin scripts.