El-Harf Tour

I’ve guided the design and crafts tour during the 2nd edition of Amman Design Week, the title of the tour was named after my new established studio: El-Harf, which will be the home of calligraphy and Arabic visual arts.

The tour started from Calligrapher Shehadeh Haroun’s shop, to meet him and learn from his experience in silkscreen printing, Haroun still using the old-school methods that he acquired from the sign painters of Damascus once he was there 50 years ago! I’ve collaborated with Haroun to produce the English lettering of Amman Design Week, and to demonstrate the essential skills and give some funny tips for the tour members.

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Old photos of Amman

I usually spend a lot of hours digging the internet for old photos about cities that I admire: Amman, Damascus, Cairo ..etc. It’s really interesting to see how these cities evolved!

This time, I’ll be sharing some photos of Amman, from the 20’s till the 90’s. You’ll notice that most of them are having a nice and well-designed shop signs; which is my well-known passion!

Photos have been collected from different websites, copyrights are reserved for their owners. Captions are available for most of the photos.

Enjoy!

Authentic again!

Like any other vivid city, Amman has its own aesthetic and well-designed shop signs. Looking back at Amman’s photos from the 60’s and 70’s, up until the few ones left nowadays; one can identify the highly flavored visual identity placed above each shop entrance. The signs were designed and produced by local sign painters, using their own taste in calligraphy, colors, composition and sometimes logo design. They were the designers of their era, without any academic direction or any written guidelines to follow, just a pure spontaneous design practice.

Unfortunately, this vital craft has vanished with the rise of computer graphics and mega size printers, and nowadays it is near extinction.

As part of my participation in Amman Design Week 2016; I’ve brought back two of the authentic sign painting masters to the scene, to produce new signage for ‘The Crafts District’ shops in the Raghadan area, and to create a real encounter between the craft masters and the designers of Amman.

Curator of ‘The Crafts District’: Dina Haddadin

Text and photography: Hussein Alazaat

كأي مدينة أخرى تضج بالحياة، فإن عمّان تملك ذوقها الخاص في لافتات المحال التجارية، وبالتتبع لصور الشوارع واللافتات في عمّان منذ الستينات والسبعينات وانتهاءً بما تبقى منها في أيامنا هذه، نجد الهوية البصرية المرتبطة بنكهة المكان والأشخاص والأعمال في المدينة على لافتات جميلة فوق مداخل المحلات، تم تصميم وتنفيذ هذه اللوحات على يد خطاطي عمّان، والذين قاموا باستخدام فراشيهم وأدواتهم، وفهمهم للتصميم والتكوين الحروفي، وذوقهم بالألوان والظلال والتأثيرات، قاموا بمقام “المصممين” المتفردين بالمدينة، خاصة عندما نرى أن بعضهم تجاوز مساحة اللافتة إلى تصميم شعارات ومواد طباعية أخرى مثلاً. كل ذلك بمنهج عفوي بسيط يتكلم مع الشارع والزبائن وضيوف المدينة بلهجة واضحة مفهومة ثنائية اللغة في معظم الأحيان.

لسوء الحظ، تم القتل التدريجي لهذه الحرفة مع ظهور الكمبيوتر والطابعات الضخمة وانخفاض الذوق العام والسعي نحو السرعة والرخص، يمكننا القول بأن حرفة صناعة الآرمات قد انقرضت الآن بشكل كبير.
ضمن مشاركتي بأسبوع عمّان للتصميم في نسخته الأولى، قمت بالتعاون الفني مع اثنين من “الخطاطين المعلمين” القدامى لهذه الحرفة، وعملنا سوية لانتاج لافتات/آرمات جديدة لـ “حي الحرف” في مجمع رغدان السياحي، لإحياء هذه الحرفة من جديد ولخلق مواجهة جديدة بين شيوخ هذا الكار ومصممي عمّان.

 

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Signpainter Abed Jukhy (Born in Amman, 1930) Holding his tools box. Mr. Jukhy is practicing his craft with great passion! despite all of the health issues he is facing! He is still offering his services in his authentic workshop that is located  in Prince Mohammad street, since the 1960’s.

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Typographic massacre!

I was stumbled upon this photo from Egypt, showing a tiny street having this enormous amount of doctor and clinics signs over two facing buildings, unbelievable shot! A street like this must enter Guinness world records!

Now talking about the sad part: Typography, yes! I feel so ashamed for the quality of design and type in this place, and all over the Arab world cities to be more realistic! Choosing this ‘ugly’ typeface has become a virus that infected every printed material in any Arabic letters! From Afghanistan to the USA, everything is polluted with this disease!

It’s similar to Arial at some level, if we count the popularity and presence, but Arial is way and way better in legibility and decentness! Can you imagine that!

That font, originally designed by Yemeni type designer Abdualla Faris in 1993 for Diwan software company in the UK, the font named as Muna, it has two weights back then, and it was widely used in books and magazines across the Arab world as a body text font, then, Layout of Lebanon has stolen it and named: AXT Manal, after that, many hacks were happen on the font, until the final surgery which made the font that bold and bulky, I think it was done for ASHARQ AL-AWSAT newspaper from London.. then the black stupid font went so viral! And ruined a country with an amazing legacy of hand painted signs!

You need to live in the Arab world to understand what exactly I mean with stupid, ugly and bad Arabic font!


egypt sign chaos

أجمل ١٠ آرمات قديمة في عمّان

للأسف تم إزالة وضياع العديد من آرمات ولافتات المحال التجارية القديمة في عمّان.. هنا أنا أوثق ماتبقى منهم باختياري لأجمل ١٠ آرمات حسب ذوقي الشخصي.. فلا يعني الأمر أن الآرمة رقم ١ هي أفضل من رقم ١٠!

أتمنى لكم مشاهدة طيبة:

١٠– معرض البوط الصيني، وسط البلد، شارع قريش

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لخطاط مجهول، على الأغلب هو إيليا كيّال حسب خبرتي بنمطه في العمل واختياره للخطوط، أكثر ما أعجبني هنا هو شعار أحذية “بيكاديلي” المنفّذ بطريقة جميلة على يمين اللوحة. طبعاً مصطلح “بوط صيني” يرمز الى جودة عالية جداً في ستينيات وسبعينيات القرن الماضي.

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Top 10 Old Shop Signs in Amman

Unfortunately, many of Amman’s good old shop signs have been removed and lost. I share here with you my selection for the best existing ones, based on my personal taste, so it does not mean that number 1 is better than number 10 🙂

Hope you enjoy looking at them:

10. Chinese Shoe Gallery, Downtown, Quraish St.

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By unknown sign painter, most probably he was Elia Kayyal. What I liked here is the Piccadilly shoes logo on the right side!

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