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Emanuela Conidi

Emanuela Conidi is an Italian type designer and typographer based in London, with specialist expertise in Arabic script culture. Before relocating to the UK, she gained her BA and MA in Design and Visual Communication from the Polytechnic University of Milan, where she also co-founded a graphic design studio. In 2008 she completed with distinction the MA in Typeface Design at the University of Reading. Since then, she has worked full-time as a type designer at Fontsmith, collaborating in developing Latin and non-Latin projects for the foundry’s library and for a variety of clients. At present, she is researching aspects of Arabic typography as part of her PhD at the University of Reading, focusing on the challenges of translating the script from its written to its printed form. 

Talk: Challenges for the Arabic script in the transition from pen to metal


The story of Arabic printing started outside Arab lands, moving its first steps in Italy in the early XVI century. Here the first book with Arabic movable types was printed in 1514, over 200 years before the establishment of the first Arabic printing press in Lebanon. The challenges of the adaptation of the script from written to printed form generated different practices in Arabic type-making for hand composition, both in the shaping of letterforms and their typographic usage. 

The focus of this talk is the critical assessment of the earliest typographical development of Arabic, with examples of the types produced in Fano, Genoa, Venice and Rome. In order to understand the reasons for their shortcomings, an evaluation of the factors that influenced decision making in the design and production process is necessary. Although a progression in their quality can be noted, they share characteristics that ultimately compromised the identity of the script in its aesthetics and in its structure.