Introducing Aravrit the Typography that Joins Two Cultures

November 27, 2017 in Inspirational

By Liron Lavi Turkenich
I was born in Haifa, a city in Israel that has a mixed population of Hebrew and Arabic speakers. Every sign in Israel is set in three languages (Hebrew, Arabic and English), and in Haifa, it’s especially evident. I never studied Arabic, and at some point, I realised that I was looking at the Arabic on the signs as if it was decorations. Like ornaments and not as text that has a meaning. It bothered me, the fact that I am living with another language around me and not even noticing it. I also checked and saw that there is almost no attention to how those three scripts are set one next to the other. I started this project in order to give the Hebrew and Arabic the same respect on the sign.

This writing system, which I call ‘Aravrit’, has new letters. In Hebrew Aravit means Arabic, and Ivrit means Hebrew. Aravrit is a hybrid combination of both names, just like the writing system is a hybrid of both scripts. Each letter is composed of a top part of an Arabic letter and a bottom part of a Hebrew letter. If you are a Hebrew speaker, you would look at the bottom part and read, and if you are an Arabic speaker, you will look at the top. Each one reads the language that she or he feels most comfortable with, without ignoring the other one, which is always present.

Aravrit translation of the word water

Aravrit translation of the word water


Aravrit translation of the word waterIt was important to me that it would be possible to write in Arvrit any word you want. Since most of the words in both languages do not use parallel sounds, I had to create all the possible combinations – each letter in Hebrew with each letter in Arabic. 638 new letters showing the possibilities of letters in Arabic (separated) and Hebrew. Today, I design when Arabic is also connected, and there are no limitations here. You can actually write any word.

The reactions to this project are amazing. First, people feel like they solved a puzzle since they can read it. A second after, they start thinking about the message. It brings the topic of living together here in Israel on the agenda, in a very subtle way. People approach me from all sectors and religions, and it is heartwarming to hear positive replies from people who cannot read both scripts.

Liron Lavi Turkenich is an independent typeface designer and researcher based in Israel. She holds a B.Des in Visual Communications from Shenkar College in Tel Aviv and an MA in Typeface Design from University of Reading, UK.

Liron designs multilingual typefaces for international companies, specialising in Hebrew and Amharic. Among them is Aravrit, a new hybrid writing system which merges Hebrew and Arabic, and has received wide recognition for its ingenuity and scope. In addition to design, she writes about letterforms, interviews designers, teaches, and researches Hebrew type design. Liron is a senior level events coordinator at ATypI, organising the yearly conference and its routine activities. She also shares her knowledge and experiences in lectures and workshops around the world. Liron loves travelling, talking with people, and searching for typographic treasures in dusty archives.