Abjad Design co-founders, Sheikha Bin Dhaher and Diana Hawatmeh, are fascinated by Arabic letters. Whether it be the smooth curve on a ba’ or the lines of an alef, these two Emirati women have explored their subject in depth. Recently Bin Dhaher met with Khaleejesque to share their story.
As we studied the beautifully crafted pieces Bin Dhaher had brought with her, we began to wonder how this laidback young woman came to create such intricately thought-out alphabet letters and turn them into contemporary book-ends.
When would you say your fascination with design began?
It all started when I graduated from Saint Martins and was very interested in Arabic type design. My friend Diana also had a branding background and was interested in typography. After graduating I thought it was about time to start a design studio because we lacked that in our country at the time. Plus when I was in Europe I saw the studio culture is very thriving.
So you were kind of the first Emirati branding company?
I would say that, yes. And our main focus is on promoting Arabic typography and Arab culture, I would say that that’s our main strength.
When did you start your bookend project?
When we were designing our logo actually; we designed our own type, our own letters and that led to being invited to join a pop-up shop in Dubai. That was the same year we opened our studio. But there was a catch… we didn’t know what to sell, we had no products.
This got me thinking; I like books, I like the look of them, I like the smell of them, so I said let’s do bookends. So we created typographic bookends based on all the letters.
Was that always the plan?
Well our logo has 4 letters, alf, ba2, jeem, and dal, which is like a, b, c, and d in English. So initially it was just those and then I extended to the whole alphabet.
How did the project develop?
Every year we would change the material, in the second year we started adding wood and metal together and then different finishes with metal like bronze. Last year we started creating names.
Are you going to introduce more products?
So far the only products we have are the book-ends; although we produced a few limited-edition sketch books recently for a pop-up store. Sketch books, tote bags… simple things that designers like to get and posters! Everything was around letters.
What we’re doing is promoting the typeface itself. So we’re creating our own font for Abjad. We would like to make a difference in the design scene in the region; in the graphic design scene especially. I feel like lots of people are into art. Lots of people are into product design, but when it comes to graphic design not so many people pay attention to that, especially typography design.