Nastaliq through Unicode & OpenType
Intended Audience: Software Engineers, Font Designers, Graphic Designers, Systems Analysts, Web Designers
Session Level: Intermediate, Advanced
Designed by Pakistani calligrapher Mirza Jamil, Noori Nastaliq is a calligraphic Arabic-script typeface originally devised for use on a Monotype imagesetter in the 1970s. Once this proprietary equipment became obsolete, Noori Nastaliq could not be readily implemented for many years with then-current technology of digital fonts. With the advent and maturation of OpenType technology, Noori Nastaliq is once again alive. In spite of the many graphic complexities of Nastaliq style such as its oblique alignment to the baseline and its cursive connections, OpenType proved sufficient for the task, yielding results that far surpassed the capabilities of the original product.
Recognized as the preferred writing style in Pakistan, Nastaliq is a complex calligraphic style of the Arabic script. When looking at a page written in Nastaliq, one has the impression of seeing words suspended from the baseline by an invisible thread. It has always been a challenge to duplicate the calligraphic intricacies of Nastaliq through mechanical type. With the advent of photo- and digital typesetting, one could better face that challenge. In the 1970s, Pakistani calligrapher Mirza Jamil was commissioned to create a large collection of images of Urdu words in Nastaliq style for use on a computer-controlled Monotype imagesetter. The typeface was called Noori Nastaliq, and is used to this day for the Jang Newspaper in Pakistan. In the early systems, as long as the typed text matched one of the stored word patterns, the imagesetter was capable of producing authentic-looking Nastaliq text. Whenever there was no match, a calligrapher would have to make repairs manually. Naturally, such an approach can no longer be tolerated today.
Through the 1990s, Noori Nastaliq could not be readily implemented with then available technology for digital fonts. Another obstacle to the task was the lack of standardization of the character set for the Urdu language. Unicode has now resolved that problem, allowing easy storage and exchange of Urdu-language text. Moreover, the advent and maturation of OpenType technology has made it possible to revive Noori Nastaliq once again. In spite of the many graphic complexities of Nastaliq style such as its oblique alignment to the baseline and its mid-air cursive connections, OpenType proved sufficient for the task, yielding results that far surpassed the capabilities of the original product in flexibility.