Finding beauty in words

Alisha Shinde
Sunday, 25 February 2018

Tarek Atrissi talks about using design and words to break down the negative image of the Islamic world

Tarek Atrissi, a cross cultural designer who was present at the 12th Pune Design Festival organised by Association of Designers of India (ADI), shares his journey and how he has taken ahead Arabic typography in today’s world when most think it to be the language of terrorists.  

Arabic typography
Atrissi believes that many people nowadays think of Arabic as the language of terrorists. “Arabic is one of the most beautiful scripts in the world,” he says, adding that it can even be used in the most creative ways. But when people start associating a script with a negative aspect it becomes extremely difficult to be creative. “Whatever the product is, people tend to get scared,” he says.

That said, incorporating Arabic typography in posters with graphics has become challenging nowadays. If the poster is in English typography, you get an idea of what it is all about. But Arabic and Persian scripts are intricate and complicated, so it becomes difficult for people to comprehend. “When people do not understand what they see or read they are terrified of the consequences, and this phenomenon has come up only in recent times,” he adds.  

Recalling an event, Atrissi says, “We had put up a poster as part of a movement called ‘Tolerance’,” which had a completely veiled woman. “The irony of the movement was that the poster did not survive even for a day.” The poster of the completely veiled woman, which had Arabic typography on it, was ripped apart and vandalised with drawings by people. Since people do not understand Arabic typography, when they see such things they start associating it with ISIS flags. “Most people think Arabic is the language that terrorists speak and write in,” Atrissi says. 
 
Design blurring boundaries 
“Design is one thing that does not need a common language to understand it,” says Atrissi. He believes it is an art form and any person from any corner of the world can be drawn towards it. He says that it is probably the most powerful tool that will blur the boundaries between different cultures and countries though he believes that it is a tool which much be used carefully without hurting the sentiments of people.  

He believes that the sudden rise of Islamphobia can be cut down through the means of design. “Literature and script is what leaves an impression and creates an impact on people’s mind, so it is in our hands to use this tool to spread peace in the world,” he adds. 

Treat all equally
Atrissi says,“Countries need publicity and a visual presence in the world,” just the way every brand needs to create an identity in the market. He believes that because of some ongoing activities some countries usually end up having a negative identity. “Our world view is shaped by what we see around us,” he says, adding that as citizens of the same planet people need to come to a point of breaking away from our inhibitions and view everyone equally. 

Digital vs handwritten
Calligraphy is best done in ink and paper. But of course times are changing and in this technology-driven world, calligraphy is now done on a digital screen. Atrissi believes that even though working digitally is much more easy and convenient but when it comes to some curves in calligraphy he always prefers going back to the roots. 

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