The Font Maker

by Yuval Saar | 29.10.15

In 2009, Michal Sahar designed a logo for Carolina, an Israeli musician and singer. The unique logo was based on the architectural fragility of the ‘Hadassa’ Font – a modern Hebrew font that is considered to be a pioneer and groundbreaking to this day; some would go as far as calling it iconic. “I have had an emotional connection to this font for years, it just never ceases to surprise and inspire me,” exclaims Sahar, one of the most talented and renowned graphic designers in Israel, among whose oeuvres one can find the redesign of the logo for the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and the creation of the museum’s visual language.


Tel Aviv Museum logo by Michal Sahar

Tel Aviv Museum logo by Michal Sahar

Six years later, Sahar is launching the ‘Hadassa Line’, her tribute to the mythological font. Her timing is just right, as recently, the Israel Museum has opened its “New Types” exhibition to visitors. The exhibition, which showcases three of Israel’s most important typographers, takes a close look at the works of Henri Friedlaender – creator of the ‘Hadassa’ Font.

“To me, the ‘Hadassa’ Font is truly radical, especially if you take into consideration the period in which it was designed – the 1950s,” she states. “It brought something new to the Hebrew language, mainly in the field of text letters. If you take the classic Hebrew fonts – ‘Frank Ruehl’ (which I really connect with Latin), ‘David’, ‘Narkis Classic’ – these are all letters that are truly based on Hebrew calligraphy. In that, ‘Hadassa’ is an exception. It’s a typographical creation whose originality can’t be matched, and it incorporates a sculptural approach to the design of fonts.”

Hadassa Kav

Tell us a little about the process: What did you learn throughout it? What did you try to achieve?
Back in 2009 when we were working on Carolina’s album I saw that something new and novel is coming out of the process. When we printed out the words of all the lyrics, it was in the initial version of the ‘Hadassa Line’ Font. Since then the font has gone through several editions and changes, periods of attachment and distance (on my part), and I actually only put it out there now, after five years, which is very uncharacteristic of me. When you grow attached to a certain font and it moves you to do something, you can learn a lot about the design process and decision-making of the original designer. You begin to understand how he created these particular shapes, how the evolution in an already existing form came into place. The font’s beauty was striking to me since  the 1990s when I graduated, but the real wonder happened when I started to look at it as a text letter designer.


What did you learn about Friedlander’s decisions as you made way in the process? Why is he considered so avant-garde?
When he crafted ‘Hadassa’, Friedlander made decisions that truly set the bar high in the field of text letter design in Hebrew, and all that without foregoing his connection to the origins (otherwise the letters would have looked out of context). For example, in some letters you can clearly see the influence of the Spanish ‘Cursive’, and suddenly you get to see them in a whole new way – elegant, cultural. When I designed the ‘Hadassa Line’ I took these significant features and put a strong emphasis on them.

Weren’t you hesitant to call your creation the ‘Hadassa Line’? Let alone touch a holy grail of typography…
No, because I don’t deal in plagiarism but rather in creation, even it if refers to the past or corresponds with it. It’s interesting, a lot of people have asked me this question, maybe because the name of the font gives away my source of inspiration. But usually when you come across font plagiarism, it’s masked by a new name. It was important to me that my tribute will be conveyed in the name of the font, and the end result is the true test.


Translation from Hebrew: Joy Bernard



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