Multilingual Typography; Signs and Language Politics of Israeli Urban Culture

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 7-15-2015


Ellen Lupton stated, [typography is] “the tool for doing things with shaping content, giving language a physical body, enabling the social flow of messages.” Typography is the main element of visual communication and graphic design. It is a written language presented in an aesthetic form to communicate a message to a public audience and has a very important and contemporary position globally. (Ertep, 2011) Typography allows viewers to navigate a flow of content, offering a system of hierarchy in design with text and image.

Within the state of Israel, the typography of public spaces presents the political systems of language preferences. Hebrew and Arabic are the two official languages of Israel, and English is used as the semi-official language. This linguistic structure is re-established within the visual presentation of typography upon the country’s linguistic landscape. Currently, trilingual signage is a commonality of Israel’s urban environment, where letterforms of Hebrew, Arabic, and English are presented to supply a translation of the same information. As this is the case, language preferences are exhibited within the typographic framework via a hierarchy of letterforms through position, size, and appearance.

The essay examines the culmination of Hebrew, Arabic, and English typography within Israeli public spaces and explores language preferences in relation to social and cultural nationalism.