The January issue of Sky, the in-flight magazine of Delta Airlines, features a photo-essay on the remarkable Persian Gulf metropolis Dubai. Designer Ted Rossiter needed a feature typeface to accompany the striking photographs of Roberto Frankenberg. He turned to Ambicase Modern from Teeline Fonts, which I designed in 2010.
Ambicase Modern is a type design that grew out of a conceptual challenge: could both the traditional upper- and lowercase forms be merged into single glyphs for each letter of the alphabet? The consequent letterforms are, in some cases, rather strange.
Rossiter’s choice of Ambicase Modern was a canny one. While Middle Eastern design played no role in the typeface’s origin, the signature peculiarity of Ambicase Modern’s letters can effectively signify cultural difference. (Interestingly, a Lebanese firm that takes inspiration from Arabic letterforms, Kashida, had previously also landed on Ambicase Modern for its logo.) Exoticism can thus be suggested without resorting to cheesy fonts that superficially emulate the visual features of Arabic calligraphy. And the hybrid nature of the ambicase concept fits the picture that we get of Dubai from Frankenberg’s photographs: we see spice vendors, camels, and prayer rugs, but also skyscrapers and shopping malls.
Not only the choice but also the usage of Ambicase Modern is noteworthy in this photo-essay. This showy typeface is best in small doses, as here where it is employed for only nine words in the six-page feature. The longer pull-quotes and decks appear in ITC Officina Sans, the comfortable sobriety of which serves well as a foil. The designer has also been smartly selective in his use of Ambicase Modern’s many swash glyphs, which add curlicue ornaments to the letters. The enormous letters used across the binding on the title spread might have been an opportunity to use the finer-detailed “Poster” cut of Ambicase Modern, but given that they are reversed out and given a gradient, the more substantial regular cut letters work well. Additional ornaments, mostly designed by Rossiter himself, take inspiration from Arabic culture and work with the typography to enliven the pages.