The Setup - Angle from Heaven
Ruq'ah, like many Arabic calligraphic styles, and unlike any of Latin, cascades. When starting a typographic adaption, the cascade angle is one of the most important considerations.
I should also add, a daunting one. The cascade angle is a seminal factor in the development of a Ruq’ah-based project because it will not only affect how the resulting typeface compares to the fluidity of calligraphy, but it will also influence other major considerations in the mechanics of the typeface, namely, the connectivity.
Luckily for me, I based my design on lettering; I got to see how flexible the artists were when creating wordshapes. Unlike in calligraphic manuals, how the letters were placed had perhaps less to do with how they sat on a baseline and more to do with how the word fit the composition of the poster. Based on the style variations and the content of the poster, some samples show a word descending a steep hill, while others show ones that are almost perfectly horizontal.
Stark variation in angles. Images via Ebay.
This meant I could be somewhat less strict in fidelity to the calligraphic style; I could choose and angle that worked best for my design. Having understood the challenges brought on by steep angles in other cascading designs (John Hudson talks about Microsoft’s Aldhabi, a Nastaliq typeface, here) and knowing that the chunky and informal design I had already settled on was better suited for a more subtle angle, I went for a 6-degree incline.
The medial beh form sits on a six-degree incline.
This will be the slope my letters climb down as the word ends and reaches the baseline. For connecting letters, like the medial beh above, and letters with a strong horizontal stroke, the angle is applied faithfully. For round letters, like the isolated beh below, the angle is implied but of course not visible.
The isolated beh form fits the incline but doesn’t adhere to it due to its round bowl.
In the second part of the “Setup” series, I will talk in-depth about what the angles mean for how the letters connect.