Italian Vernacular Typography in Rome with Louise Fili


Louise speaks with owner of Ristorante Settimo about their signage from the 1960s

“Fare la coda” or the inability to stand in line is not the only thing that Rome and Beirut have in common. Much like my own home city, Rome has a tangible warmth to it and I’m not just talking about the temperature. There is history here that can be seen in the ochre tones of the buildings, heard in the undulations of the language, and even tasted in every scoop of black raspberry gelato. When it comes to design, it’s as if things look the way they’re supposed to without much thought put into it. As our first lecturer, Louise Fili, said, “in Italy, everything is beautifully designed even though no one is a designer.”

She walks us through 35 years worth of her carefully curated collection of signage. Not only is Italy the birthplace of Latin typography, it seems it’s also where every sign has a lineage. Rather than reading a plaque or pocketbook guide, each sign forms a graphic timeline because the style of type used corresponds to a particular historic era. Leave it to graphic designers to learn about history via type, right?

But oddly enough, it works. Not only does Louise tell us about each sign’s historical significance but also how the style of signage can tell you what part of Italy you’re in. It seems that each part – be it Florence, Bolognia, Rome, or Torino – has its own flavor and trademark when it comes to their storefronts.

What I find most interesting is the businesses that the signs represent tend to belong to a family that has been in that business for generations. The symbol becomes representative of part of their legacy, not just indicative of what they’re selling thus becoming a visual landmark in that neighborhood’s collective memory. It reminds you that there’s a story behind every sign and all you have to do to find out more is walk through the doorway underneath it.

First published on SVA’s website.


El-Tanein Diet Week #45 and #46


Taken by Random Dude by this “fountain”

I bunched these two weeks so I could report on some diet progress. First 10 days or so on my new diet and I’m down 3.2kgs but forget the scale – the bigger win is that my visceral fat area has dropped 23% so that’s great motivation to stick to this…which will be a challenge because I’m now in Rome, Italy.

I’m going to do my best to stay within the lines without sacrificing the chance to have authentic Italian gelato and pizza. I’m not kidding. I brought packs of light tuna and mustard with me. No joke. #wesleys4life

Mark Jibran, my NRC coach, has told me to run 3x/week while away to keep up the momentum. Let’s hope I don’t go into travel mode and get lazy. I’ve made progress with NRC BEY – can’t go back now!

Workout Tally

– 3 NRC runs
– 45 min elliptical
– SixPax, 30 min elliptical
– 1 Upper Body Gym, 30 min elliptical
– 1 Lower Body Gym, 45 min elliptical

Outdoor Activity

Last Thursday’s NRC run was such an ass-kicking workout. Over 9km of twelve sprints in increasing then decreasing increments. It was so painful emotionally that I would’ve preferred a waxing session but it made me feel less guilty about heading to Sour for the whole weekend. It was like I worked for the time off.

Nike+ App

Best Meal(s) of the Week(s)


Le Phenicien in Sour. Octopus provençale, grilled calamari, that fruity crab salad. Oh yes, this place is good and, oh yes, we ate there twice.


The best gelato of my life from Giolitti on my first night in Rome. Black raspberry and dark chocolate. Akh. This diet thing is going to suck.

Other Highlights


Dar Alma & Weekending in Tyre (Sour): Cute boutique hotel with my gals. Lots of sunshine, sand, and vegetating. Feels like summer is here.


Don Nino cappuccino and sfogliatella frolla, God help me

The start to my Summer Typography & Design Workshop in Rome: I’ll be in the Eternal City for the next 2 weeks with NYC’s School of Visual Arts. The workshop is lead by some kickass teachers from there and so far, my brain is quite happy.

Workout Track(s) of the Week(s)

Cheese of the Week(s)

I love double creme. My cheese section will be very G-rated now that I can’t go wild with the cheese platters & wine. Did I mention the burrata in Rome is INSANELY DELICIOUS?


El-Tanein Diet Week #43 and #44


I combined these 2 weeks because I wanted my last post on Beirut Madinati to get as much screen time as possible. It’s had over a week so let’s get back to biz.

Gym momentum is still going strong but I gave up on policing myself with food. In other words, I went to a dietician. I’m not good at portion control and this was not easy to admit. However, after 6 months at this new gym without major results, I have to come to the conclusion that I’m probably eating all wrong. Blood tests are also being done as a precaution.

As of week #45, I will be on a diet so that my workouts aren’t done in vain and/or I don’t keel over from heart disease.

Workout Tally

– (3) NRC runs
– BodyPump, 20min elliptical
– BodyPump, 30min elliptical
– 60min elliptical
– 80min elliptical
– 45min elliptical
– Stairs drills at AUB

As you can see, the last two weeks was more elliptical than classes mainly due to convenience. The classes are more entertaining and effective as a workout though.

Outdoor Activity


I don’t know why I decided to jog the Chemistry stairs on the hottest day of the month so far. Those steps will always remind me of the days when I would use them to escape the misery of lower campus. I never thought I’d intentionally be going up (and down the tennis court stairs) them for no other reason than to do a loop and climb again. As the temperature rises, my fear of our moist summers increases.

Nike+ App

No records this time but maintaining my pace so far.

Best Meal(s) of the Week(s)

As my last meals before the real el-tanein diet moment that was yesterday, I did quite well: the buffet at Nicolas Audi at Ixsir Winery in Basbina, my favorite hummus beiruti and meat & cherries at Studio Beirut, and a quinoa salad at Casper & Gambini.

Other Highlights

Beginner Runs with NRC:
 Since the NRC group has been growing exponentially every Tues/Thurs, Nike has started a beginners group on Mondays. This group will be dedicated to new runners. Each run will be 3-4km and serve as an introduction to the NRC lifestyle. One caveat – these runs will not get you Nike loyalty points.


Beirut Madinati & Election Day: Did I already mention this? Oops. #sorrynotsorry

Workout Track(s) of the Week(s)

One high tempo and one more chill for your cool down? What can I say, I’m too good to you.

Cheese of the Week(s)

I wish I was Bo. Not for the guy but for the fact that she can mange, mange, mange.


Beirut Madinati: The 5 Stages of Election Day


Photo Cred: Miguele Issa


We have a movement of intellectuals who are capable of bringing solutions to a table that has been buried in problems; a group of 24 professionals who have managed to build a current that is flowing through the body of dirty water that is the Lebanese political world. Could it be? Could this be the start of a change that could become contagious? Did dad just say he wants to create a “Kfarkila Baldati” list for our village in the South the next time elections come around? It won’t work. We’re the Bernie Sanders of this tragedy. As in, the guy that should win but will end up having to grin & bear it as his opponent takes the stage waving like the one beauty queen who isn’t endorsed by Trump. Being what the country needs isn’t always the winning strategy when it comes to politics.


Friends saying they can’t volunteer because of lunches in Sour, late parties in Hamra the night before, or my favorite one: ma ili jleideh. Pictures of sunbathers and brunching babes who will complain about the smell of garbage when they go to Sporting for Decks on the Beach or nag that Beirut has no parks like the ones in [insert any country here]. The lowest percentage of voters in the history of Beirut Municipality elections. Barely 20% after 12 hours of open polls. I dropped my first uni course (Physics 204) when I got the same grade on Quiz 1. It was a lost cause.


Maybe I could’ve done more leading up to this point? Maybe I should have moved my legal residency to Beirut so I could make my vote count where it could do the most “damage.” Am I not calling enough people? Am I not convincing enough when I ask them to donate a few hours? I should’ve practiced my Arabic handwriting before today. Why have I never heard of half these schools? The thought process throughout the day doesn’t come close to the thoughts that have infected my noodle for the last few months. Those of jaded disgust that couldn’t point me in the direction of any bright sides to staying in Beirut. The BEY cheerleader in me was 12 steps away from a 2007 Britney meltdown before whipping out the US passport escape kit. But then that thought that is the loudest in these situations always seems to snap me out of it: do something or shut up. Being on call center duty for 13 hours is a tedious job but it’s one day. One that could change everything. Not such a sacrifice when you think about the days you’ve wasted on Netflix benders that did nothing but sentence you to more cardio at the gym that following Monday.


When salaries and cost of living are so disproportionate, you almost can’t be angry with people accepting payment in exchange for votes. You can understand the need for immediate monetary rewards when you have generator bills to pay, mouths to feed, and face masks to buy. Not every voter has the luxury to think about the future, they only have the capacity to think about the month ahead. The dynasties still hold the power and run the show. The corruption is deeper than our aquifers that will be drained by our neighbors while we’re busy backstabbing each other. Your friends didn’t vote, the Facebook feeds lied. Voter fraud, ballot tampering, and bribes. Beirut Madintak/tik but apparently a year in filth, two without a president, and almost three decades of Berri are NBD. Another 6 years of the same sexy faces that grace our television screens every night ain’t no thang. The doubts rush in. The haters who told you it’s all useless were right: hayda Libnein.


We did not fail. Yes, we don’t need another downfall or reminder that our system is broken. What we did need was a reminder that we have the power to fix it. The people busting their butts because of what Beirut Madinati showed them in the last few months is anything but that of failure. Change is already happening.

When you have an office full of non-Beirutis volunteering to call random numbers for +12 hours, then you know that you’re surrounding yourself with the right people who want what you want. When you manage to get 81-year-old Souad and her 89-year-old husband Fouad down to their voting station in Charles Helou all the way from Beit Chaar 15 minutes before voting closes, after Souad refused to go especially without Fouad, then you know that you’re creating change. When you reach voters through those phone calls who tell you that they brought the whole family to the polls and are almost insulted we even asked if they voted yet, that they’re grateful that Beirut Madinati gave them a reason to vote at all, then you know that maybe the fight isn’t over. When you’re reunited with ethics professors, high school friends, and activists that you run into at all social happenings, you know that your city is still cultivating strong minds and that ب in the logo isn’t just a frozen symbol, it’s a fucking beating heart. When you have a father telling us younger volunteers that we’re witnessing history, then you know you’re not a naive fool to believe your work could reignite the embers of hope that are dying out. When you hear volunteers say that there was no need to explain who Beirut Madinati were because the people on the ground knew, you know that the message being spread had moved offline. When your social media feeds are filled with first-time purple thumbs, then you know that you can keep dialing, keep smiling, and keep crossing your unstained fingers because there are fellow citizens who are thinking about their Beirut, not their botched Sunday caught in election traffic. There just wasn’t enough of them.

BM supporters, please know that what you were campaigning for was something that the people need but they’re not able to take the reins yet because “democracy” has failed them so many times before. They don’t think it even works. But, for once, we all did not surrender to apathy, stagnation, and intimidation. That alone is a victory. That alone is a start. This battle may have been lost but next time, we’ll win the war. And we don’t have to wait 6 years to do it.

Who Beirut Creates

Here’s a small collection of shorts, clips, and music videos that came from the beautiful souls of Beirut. This is why we need to keep our city alive, it’s why we need to take it back – so we can make it a place that everyone wants to return to, a place they want to be inspired from, and a place they want to call home. This is why we need to vote.

El-Tanein Diet Week #42


Taken by Ali Itani

I really need to blog more. Bambi has become all about the ETD and that’s a shame but quite reflective of how life becomes when juggling work, fitness, and everything else. They say you can only have two of the three when it comes to time and activities. I’m missing my Bambi the Explorer days.

Workout Tally

– 2 NRC runs
– 10K Manara Race with Elite Running Club
– 2 hatha yoga sessions

Outdoor Activity


I made it to Horsh Beirut! Ananda Yoga Center was hosting a free yoga session in Horsh Beirut this Saturday in support of Beirut Madinati. First off, the Horsh itself was a pleasant surprise – it’s a refreshing well-kept space full of families and people enjoying the warm weather. Second, there was a great turnout and strangely contrasting with the jaded attitudes I’ve been encountering in BEY lately. Yoga itself really challenges you to disconnect and there’s nothing like doing breathing exercises in a park while people are shooting off guns from rooftops not too far off.

Nike+ App

I beat my best-5K and 10K times! Mini wins every other week or so are getting addictive. If I can get my best-5K to be my time every 5K, then I’ll really celebrate but it feels good to keep knocking off seconds.

Best Meal of the Week


Post-Manara race, I devoured one too many nachos at Cheesecake Factory but the best meal will undoubtedly go to Babel Bay and their shrimp fatteh. Or Ajami’s shawarma plate. Let’s just say that dad’s birthday comes with a lot of family lunches.

Other Highlights


Taken by Dany Tannous

NRC takes over Zaitunay Bay:
After our Tuesday fun run, we invaded the marina for some sangria and chips. The group’s not just about breaking a sweat but also about mingling with new people from all over and having fun together.

Beirut Municipality Elections this Sunday: Real people who think about what Beirut needs should win this for the sake of all those who are losing the ability to hope for change. Although it is admirable that there are people still trying to push back, the rest of the country is tired and need proof that the efforts aren’t wasted – that we’re not stuck. If I could vote in Beirut, I would vote for Beirut Madinati. Check out this comparison by Habib at Beirut Report.

Workout Track of the Week

I feel like this has been in this section before but it’s better than something new by someone who hasn’t hit puberty yet.

Cheese of the Week

Turn on the English subtitles for this.