interview with graphic designer garry emery

the founder and creative director of emerystudio, which is based in melbourne, and develops corporate and brand identity, corporate communications, motion graphics, exhibitions and environmental graphic design, tells designboom more about how he came to be a designer, his main influences and his thoughts on graphic design today.

Designing the Font for the Tallest Building in the World

Austrialia’s Emerystudio, the firm designing the [Burj Khalifa]’s wayfinding systems—the signage that directs visitors around the huge structure—wanted to employ Arabic typography that’d be distinctive, legible, and harmonious when placed next to Latin lettering. Now, the font created for the tower may be spreading to other parts of the fast-developing Middle East.

In 1978, Dr. Mamoun Sakkal, Syrian-born, U.S. type designer in Bothell, Wash., created a Latin-complementary typeface called Shilia (after a mountain range) for a Saudi company. At Emerystudio’s behest, he transformed it into a newer type family called Burj Khalifa Shilia.


Now, Sakkal’s font may start showing up outside of the Burj Khalifa. Nadine Chahine of Monotype Imaging and Linotype in Germany…saw the Shilia sketches that Sakkal had on his website and approached him with an offer that Linotype…license the typeface for even broader applications than the building.

Arabic type design was barely on Westerners’ radar only a dozen years ago. Now, “we are definitely seeing an unprecedented level of interest in Arabic type design,” Chahine said. “This is on par with the increased level of design sophistication and the sheer energy that seems to be flowing in this field. These are very exciting times to be an Arabic type designer, and we are lucky that the font technology has developed to a level that gives us so much freedom in design.”

More details on the Shilia family of typefaces are available from Linotype’s website.