STC | Crafting A Bespoke Typeface

Blog | In The Studio

Charlie | Thursday 29th, 2012, 12:00am BST

We were tasked with designing a new, bespoke typeface for STC, the largest telecommunications company in Saudi Arabia with current markets in Kuwait, Bahrain and Indonesia. Typefaces with a distinctive character or ‘personality’ have become an essential asset in the brand toolkit as they can play a central role in increasing brand recognition and establishing a distinctive tone of voice for brands. As brand guardians for STC, we considered it a unique opportunity to design a contemporary typeface for STC that would make them stand out from the landscape of Arabic telecom brands in the Middle East. A bespoke typeface would also reflect STC’s keen interest in clear communication with their customers as well as their dedication to technological advancements. The design of the STC typeface had to reflect the new brand strategy and the new values; ‘progressive’, ‘tuned in’, ‘helpful’ and ‘resourceful’. It also had to be highly adaptable in order to carry the new identity across multiple languages and various applications Рfrom large headlines to small running text Рwithout losing consistency. We conducted a detailed exploration of the different possibilities for each glyph in both Arabic and Latin alphabets before the first basic character set was drawn.

Preliminary sketches and character exploration for Arabic alphabet

The proportions and basic characteristics for the stroke width, contrast and drawing of curves were established and the resulting typeface was a geometric typeface with large counters, squarish curves and single rounded corners on end strokes. The character set was then complemented with ligatures, numerals and punctuation marks. Particular attention had to be given to the numerals as pricing and discount rates feature prominently in STC’s advertising.

Character design and glyph testing

Fine-tuning numerals

Arabic ‘fi’ ligature – work in progress

Finally, we approached Tarek Atrissi’s design studio in the Netherlands to assist us in the technical development of the typeface to include two additional weights (light and bold) with italics. Every step of the development process was discussed in detail to ensure that the typeface characteristics were faithfully carried across to the whole family. It has become common practice in this part of the world for branding agencies to approach type foundries in order to develop a custom typeface whenever it would be considered as an appropriate solution for the brand identity. However, in the Middle East, type foundries are extremely scarce if practically non-existent. The design of Arabic typefaces has only recently picked up momentum due to the effort of young designers who have brought into their current practice learnings from advanced courses in type design in the Netherlands or the United Kingdom. A handful of modern typefaces are available online today and the library will expand greatly over the next few years as the demand for Arabic typefaces is increasingly growing.

Feedback sessions and development of typeface family