A keyset embodying the spirit of modernism in the Arabic-speaking world
Some of you may have noticed that I slipped an unusual finish into the Norbaforce Mark II group buy. I’m calling it Palm Desert, which is a nice dual reference both to a city here in California where I am based and also, more ostensibly, to the desert sands commonly associated with Arabia. This finish was added to pair with earth-toned sets in general, but also specifically with a new keyset I’ve been working on with my estimable colleague @Sour in Lebanon, which we’re calling Palm Desert 1968.
For this set, we were originally inspired by the work of Lebanese type designer Nadine Chahine, who created an adaptation of the Neue Helvetica typographic aesthetic to Arabic.
As you can see from her talk above, she wanted to created a font that embodied a stereotype-defying spirit of modernism and progress in the Middle East, which is often different than the common depictions that region is given–especially here in the US.
As many who follow my other work may know, I’m really into the concept of retro-futurism, which is to say: a study and celebration of the past’s optimism for the future. (It’s a big part of the reason why I’m so into the retro instrument that is the mechanical keyboard in the first place.) So, listening to Chahine’s talk, I couldn’t help but think back to the liberalization and modernism seen in the Arab world in the 1960s, when mini-skirts, female medical students, and hula hoops could be seen on the streets of Baghdad and Kabul
So I got very excited about the idea of creating an Arabic sub-legend set that evokes both the future-optimistic California mid-century modernism that I so adore and also the hopes for the future of the Arabic-speaking world seen in that same era. Chahine’s font seemed like the perfect thematic pairing.
For the Latin super-legends, we’ve chosen Wes Anderson’s favorite bit of modernist typography: Futura, for reasons that must be self-evident.
The result is, in my view, quite striking:
I’m currently working with Signature Plastics on this project, because as my previous group buys have shown, I think they do the best dye keycap sublimation work in the word, and this set is all about a faithful representation of these beautiful letterforms. I believe that rounded rectangles of the DSA profile further understores the modernist aesthetic (and I am always a huge sucker for the feel and sound of PBT).
We’re currently working with SP on a set of samples using these Pantone matches.
Please fill out the survey if you would be interested in picking up a set and think we should pursue this project further!