The most used typeface for bilingual signage (Arabic and Latin)

, by George Kandalaft

For bilingual (Arabic-Latin) signage anywhere in the world, there is really only one typeface to consider. It’s called Boutros Advertisers Naskh. It was designed in 1977 by Mourad and Arlette Boutros in collaboration with Letraset to work in perfect harmony with Helvetica. Since then, it has been the most used typeface for indoor and outdoor signs for highways, airports, hospitals and offices throughout the Arabic-speaking world. Users include Dubai and other UAE International Airports, Riyadh International Airport, 3M, The Bechtel Corporation and many other organisations.

The design is based on the classical Naskhi style respecting Arabic calligraphy and cultural rules. The addition of linked straight lines to match the Latin baseline level is designed to achieve harmony when used alongside a Latin equivalent typeface such as Garamond, Palatino and Times Roman as well as Helvetica, Futura and Frutiger. The light and medium weights are suitable for body text. The other weights are suitable for headlines and sub-headings. The outline, shadow and inline versions can be used to give extra decoration to all types of communication materials.

Today, Boutros Advertisers Naskh remains the ideal typeface for bilingual signage due to its harmony with Latin typefaces, its versatility and its universal legibility. Research has shown that it can be quickly and easily read by all age groups.

The photographs below were taken in September 2011 showing Boutros Advertisers Naskh in use on signage at Dubai Airport and on UAE highways.