Alef Betty: Modern Hebrew Arts

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The Alef Bet

I was 6 years old when my family moved from Israel to Berkeley, California, so both Hebrew and English were spoken in our house. My brother and I each had a Hebrew alphabet poster from Israel hanging in our rooms when we were growing up.

There are some interesting words in this poster. Words like “loneliness” and “illness” alongside more benign words like “artist” and “tall.”

It’s hard to imagine someone designing a language poster now with words like that. But it was good for me to be surrounded by this wide range of letters and words. It made me wonder about life.

I spent a lot of my childhood looking at this poster, and I realized recently that I wanted to design a different kind of poster. I wanted to make something with the Hebrew alphabet, but I wanted it to be modern.

Designing a modern Hebrew alphabet poster

I set out to find the best Hebrew typography. Two of the posters I ultimately designed use letterforms based on typefaces from the Hebrew cannon: Frank Rühl and Haim. The former is perhaps the most widely used text face of all time and the latter is among the first modern faces designed, deeply influenced by the Bauhaus.

Both of these letterforms have been retrofitted by quite a few typographers for digital typesetting. I chose versions that were lovingly designed by Hagilda, a duo of typographers named Danny Meirav and Michal Sahar working in Israel. They are each accomplished designers and their type library is super fun.

The third poster uses a typeface called Beit Hillel by Oded Ezer, a well known Hebrew typographer working in Givatayim, the city where my family lived before we moved to the States. I saw him speak in 2006 at a type conference in Israel and instantly fell in love with his work, some of which is experimental and daring, and some of which is practical and useful.

The next generation

I was aiming to design a set of posters that people would want to hang in their homes today, so that another generation could grow up looking at these letters.

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