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Graphic designer turns Arabic words into stunning illustrations

An Egyptian-based graphic designer has embarked upon a singular challenge. His objective was to experiment with Arabic words and turn them into graphic representations of their meaning.

He succeeded – and the results are just marvellous.

Islamic calligraphy has always been renowned for its extraordinary beauty. Going as back as the 11th century, crusaders often returned to Europe with inscribed textiles as prized trophies of war. These would often become valuable assets.

In antiquity, Muslim culture had a great distrust in figurative representations, as they considered most figurative art as idolatrous. Thus, calligraphy evolved free flowing, poetic and highly expressive, developing in tight association to the Qur’an.

In fact in Islam, chapters from the sacred text are the main scriptures used to teach young students how to read and write.

There are three main styles, Kufic, Naskh, and Modern, with other styles evolving independently in particular regions like China or Turkey since the expansion of Islam in the 14th Century.

The most common style is Riq’ah, a variation of the Naskh style, which first appeared in the ninth century and was created with informal, everyday use in mind. It’s based on simple, short strokes with very little flourish.

Mahmoud El Sayed is an Architect and Graphic Designer running his own company, MT Designs, which offers branding, typography and 3D art services. He posted his experiments with calligraphy and graphic design in Bored Panda with a little snippet explaining his motivation,

“I have always been fascinated by word manipulation, so I started this project as a personal challenge.

I manipulate Arabic words and transform them into their meaning, and I made a total of 40 illustrated words. Also, there are pronunciation of those words above every picture that will hopefully help you to learn something new!”

El Sayed did 40 illustrations, depicting everyday words that go from Qahuwa which means Coffee, to Qale’a which means Citadel.

He has posted so far two galleries of his project at his Behance page, which you can check out here and here.