NESHAN, The Iranian Graphic Design Magazine

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Neshan 46/47


Haghighi’s Typefaces

Borna Izadpanah

On January 25th, 1962, Kayhan, one of the leading Tehran newspapers, announced on its front page that a new headline typeface called Horuf-e 84 siyah-e Kayhan [Kayhan 84 Black] had been designed for the newspaper. According to this report, the design and production of this type had been initiated one year earlier and in collaboration with the Elham type foundry in Tehran; however, there was no mention of the designer of this typeface. On January 23rd, 1962, Kayhan’s main headline was for the first time set in Kayhan 841.  Around two years later, Ettela’at, another leading Tehran newspaper, gradually began to use Kayhan 84 that was first used for typesetting its main headline on 3 November 1963. Ultimately on 4 March 1969, Ettela’at introduced the designer of Kayhan 84, Hossein Abdollahzadeh Haghighi2 (1937 Tabriz – 2003 Tehran), who had designed this typeface when he was only 25 years old.

In his own words, Haghighi had begun work as a type designer in his early 20s. In the beginning, he was responsible for ‘improving’ the quality of existing typefaces and making adjustments in their design for matrix making which he undertook for the typefounders Habibollah Abdi and Abdolrahman Naseri (the founders of Elham and Zar type foundries in Tehran)3. The first typeface that Haghighi independently designed was simply called 12 Black. Kayhan 84 which is better known in Iran as Zar-e Siyah or Zar-e Bold was in fact an outcome from the period when Haghighi was working for Abdi and Naseri. 
The author’s research has shown that Kayhan 84 was in fact inspired by a genre of early twentieth-century bold and headline typefaces which were commonly used in the Arabic-script publications from Russian cities such as Baku, Kazan, Moscow, andd Tbilisi4. This can be verified from the scrutiny of existing publications of this period. This style of type, which in this article will be referred to as Russian Style, was the basis of an Intertype typeface Saadi Siyah which, according to the print expert Reza Mazaheri, was also designed by Haghighi5. However, Kayhan 84 was a much more refined, consistent and accomplished design than the Russian Style typefaces and Saadi Siyah. In fact, Kayhan 84 clearly demonstrates Haghighi’s skill in drawing characters and his understanding of the typesetting and typefounding technologies. This typeface became so popular for Persian typesetting that in the following years’ several versions of it (often with different names) were produced and released. Two of the noteworthy adaptions of Kayhan 84 were those of Monotype (for hot-metal composition) and Letraset (for dry-transfer lettering sheets) which were released as Farsi 721 and Ziba respectively.
In the following decades, Haghighi continued to design original typefaces for different typesetting and typefounding technologies which included two typeface families in collaboration with Linotype to be used for typesetting Kayhan and Ettela’at. The first typeface family was called Simplified Persian or Simplified Ettela’at which he designed in 1968-96.6 In 1967-78, Haghighi designed another typeface family for Linotype, initially called Haghighi, and later renamed and released as Nazanin. Similar to Kayhan 84, Nazanin has remained one of the most popular typefaces for Persian typesetting. 
Haghighi also designed a number of typewriter typefaces including the Persian typefaces for companies such as IBM , Olympia, Hermes, and Sharp.7 
Perhaps the heavy headline typeface that is known in Iran as Titr was also designed by Haghighi. According to Haghighi ‘it came to my attention that they [newspaper typesetters or designers] were adding weight to Kayhan 84 to achieve a heavier headline … each one of them was doing this according to their liking … I told them that let me design a heavy typeface for you which you can use to produce films and later cut and paste for your headlines to make it more consistent’.8 
Some of the most significant characteristics in most of Haghighi’s designs were the unusual stroke modulation of the initial mim in bold weights and the changes in the modulation of the belly of ha which he called Russian Style.9 He also made certain adjustments to the structure of characters ‘to make them look more Persian’. For instance, the upright teeth of the letter sin which in most typefaces were designed at an angle.10
This short article has aimed to provide a more accurate account of Hossein Haghighi’s work by focusing on primary and secondary sources the majority of which have not been studied and presented before. Most of the images shown here were recently displayed in an exhibition entitled 20th-century Persian newspaper types: investigating the design process which was co-curated by the author and Professor Fiona Ross at the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication, University of Reading, UK.

 1. Prior to this Kayhan 84 typeface was used in a few advertisements of Kayhan. 
 2  The romanisation of Haghighi’s name should be ‘Haqiqi’; however, since all of the English sources that I have consulted including in his own letterhead uses ‘Haghighi’, I have used the same version.   
 3. ‘Sokhani ba pishkesvatan-e san’at-e chap’ in Chap va Enteshar, No 2 (1994), p 58. 
 4. I am grateful to Thomas Milo for drawing my attention to a Persian/Russian dictionary printed in Moscow in 1914 which uses one of the bold Russian style types for the Persian text. 
 5. ‘Sokhani ba pishkesvatan-e san’at-e chap’ in Chap va Enteshar, No 2 (1994), p 61.  Mazaheri also states that the regular weight of Saadi was designed by an Intertype designer Armstrong. Apart from an article in Intertype journal Interludes, (J. Armstrong, ‘The mechanics of producing a typeface’ in Intertype Interludes (Spring 1961), pp 8-9) which might have been written by the same Armstrong, I have not been able to find much information about this designer. 
 6. Simplified Persian or Simplified Ettela’at was designed based on the simplification principles in Arabic script typewriters which was earlier adopted in the design of Linotype Yakout typeface.
 7. I have extracted the information regarding Haghighi’s typewriter typefaces from a letter that was sent to the Monotype Corporation from Jamshid Lachini (Pars Calligraphy) in September 1991.
 8. ‘Tarrahi horuf-e farsi’ in San’at-e Chap, No 113 (1992), p 32.
 9. ‘Tarrahi horuf-e farsi’ in San’at-e Chap, No 113 (1992), p 31.
 10. ibid. (30 March – 17 May 2019)

Borna Izadpanah

is an award-winning typeface designer and researcher based in London. He holds an MA in Graphic Design from the London College of Communication and an MA in Typeface Design from the University of Reading where he is currently a PhD candidate. His doctoral research is funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council, under the auspices of the Design Star Doctoral Training Centre, and it focuses on the history of Persian printing and the typographic representation of the Persian language.


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