Excellent new article on Hebrew fonts

William Berkson's picture

Including interesting information on Zvi Narkiss vs Microsoft:


david h's picture

OK. I read it twice, but didn't get it.

"...a new generation has grown up that reads fewer newspapers and hardly reads books at all. These young people spend most of their time on the Internet or in an environment of electronic instruments. As a result, they interface with the Hebrew language through a different font from the generation that grew up with print media"

This kind of stuff, generalization is nonsense.

"...In contrast, the design uniformity of the FrankRuehl family of letters created a clear, easily readable font. The decisions that underlay the process of designing Arial produced a more confusing font, which is harder for us to read.

I guess he didn't read Über Hebräische Typen und Schriftarten by Rafael Frank (the designer)

William Berkson's picture

I agree that there is a lot of rubbish after the discussion of Narkiss and Arial Hebrew. But to be fair, the rubbish is from the designers, not the journalist. I did find interesting the argument that Ariel Hebrew is made too symmetrical. Do you think so?

Thanks for mentioning the article by Rafael Frank, I found a scanned PDF copy on the internet and look forward to reading it—German dictionary in hand! Also This bibliography of Hebrew Typesetting, also on the site of Prof. Sivan Toledo looks very interesting.

gohebrew's picture


Which Arial Hebrew?

There have been a view reincarnations.

Boruch Gorkin's is the latest, made for Monotype who licensed it to Apple and Microsoft. Smart. Paid Monotype (Agfa) big bucks not to pay bigger bucks to Tzvi Narkiss obm (but he got it from IBM and Linotype.

Are you at the incarnation of BitStream?

brianskywalker's picture

> too symmetrical

Does anyone have examples of this font or other Hebrew fonts that are considered "too symmetrical" in comparison to other designs?

gohebrew's picture

See http://www.baruchgorkin.com/apple_microsoft/index.html

Bill, do you mean this final legal offering?

It is not too symmetrical.

At least, the Hebrew version is not. Arial sucks. The black weight is great.

An example, Brian, of too symmetrical is Arial.

brianskywalker's picture

All of the letters look very similar and uniform. Not everyone thinks it's too symmetrical?

William Berkson's picture

In the article linked above, the complaint is about three letters in Arial Hebrew: the samech (not in Israel's sample) is a circle, symmetrical, and also the yod and nun sofit, which are rectangles. You can see here: http://www.ascenderfonts.com/font/arial-bold-hebrew.aspx

There have been similar complaints about the "j" in Futura, and it is not much imitated. Also the original m and n in Futura, which were symmetrical, were abandoned.

See here Narkis Tam, which has a corner on the samech: http://new.myfonts.com/fonts/masterfont/narkis-tam/regular/characters.html

gohebrew's picture


What are you saying?

Do you refer to the obvious Narkis-like design of the Hebrew, or the crude knock-off of the graceful Hevetica design for the Latin letters.

Gorkin brilliantly added more curves to the Hebrew letters, and adjusted the stroke widths to match the stroke widths of Arial.

But it's still heavily influenced by Tzvi Narkis zal (www.FontWorld.com calls my version Neshika, or kiss, a play on words with Narkis' surname.

Interestingly, I saw in posters created by a Jewish concentration camp inmate in the Holocaust Hebrew lettering which closely resembled the popular Narkis design, suggesting that the Narkis design originated by an unknown designer in Nazi Germany. If we study Narkis' other designs, clearly this design does not match.

brianskywalker's picture


I was speaking perhaps in ignorance of what was meant, because I only skimmed over the original article. I think it looks a bit sterile aside from that, but that isn't always a bad thing.

In my own design work, I have mostly chosen sans-serifs with small quirks and imperfections - or perhaps something more relaxed to them - especially for use with Serif fonts. Usually the stark sterility of many Sans looks jarring to my eyes against serif type. On the other hand, by itself sterile sans fonts have merit in my opinion. But they usually don't mix well with serif fonts, even stiff ones.

gohebrew's picture

A sans does not need to be sterile. Look at Itamar Davids David or the fonts by Tzvi Narkiss. They are sans, but verile and very alive.

This is partially due to alternating the stroke width a bit, which causes the eye to move move and get excited. See how Arial, even Helvetica, lack this?

brianskywalker's picture

Yes, that is what I meant. I think it's also the incline of the contrast as well.

Arial, Helvetica, and Frutiger are all very "neutral", especially so of Frutiger. But I think this design lends to only so many uses. It would never work as a companion to a serif. By themselves, these tend to work well. What I mean is, rarely does Helvetica play well with another font imo.

gohebrew's picture

What is natural versus sterile?
What is contrast?

brianskywalker's picture


Contrast is the difference between thick and thin strokes.
Natural is imperfect, natural cans be ugly, but often is pretty. Sterile is streamlined and refined until every curve has perfect tension, every kink is removed, and everything has lost personality. It can be bland.

Neither is really good, bad, or perfect, but has it's own uses and limitations.

gohebrew's picture

Actually, Brian, I learned from my English teacher, Mr. Steven Byk, that it was superfluous to write 'in my opinion', because it is obvious that if I write it, then it is my opinion.

Typograph's picture

from my studies of the way hebrew was spoken at the time of the Talmud i have dicoverd that most pronunciation where already used.
the letter Thadi was used for
today they use a single quote after the tsadi to get the CH pronunciation
a gimel with a dagesh kal was pronunced as DJ

alot of these pronunciations were forgotten with time
so wrather making up new glyphes as michal shani is sugjesting, we can simply revive the ancient way of hebrew.

a dalet with a dagesh and a dalet without a dagesh are pronunced the same way.
alot was forgotten, so before distorting the language, she should research the ancient ways, and she will find out that much already exists.

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