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Men of letters

More than 300 Indian languages mean greater scope for font designers, says Vandana Ramnani.

education Updated: Sep 22, 2011 11:46 IST
Vandana Ramnani
Vandana Ramnani
Hindustan Times

The Government of India officially released the symbol for the Indian rupee in July this year. IITian Udaya Kumar from Chennai’s design won the design contest announced by the government last year. But the question that arose was how could it be typed into a document on the computer? A firm, Foradian

Technologies, came to the rescue. It not only designed a font for the rupee symbol, but also mapped it to the keyboard within 24 hours of the announcement of the official symbol.

“The idea to create the font came up after I came across a word document sent by my client with the rupee fond – and they had reportedly faced a lot of problems cutting and pasting it in the document. I spoke to some friends about the matter and realised that everyone was confused about how to incorporate the font into the computer. That prompted my team to create a font for the Rupee,” says Unni Koroth, CEO and co-founder of Foradian Technologies, a Mangalore-based start-up.

As soon as the new Indian rupee sign was approved, Foradian Technologies published a free font on their blog. The font and the blog became a viral phenomenon with 1 million visits in just two days of the launch of the font. There were 5,000 downloads within an hour and so the company created an improved version of the font and uploaded it. It created two versions within 24 hours of the announcement of the symbol. The third version of the rupee font was released at the end of July.

When the government said it would take more than a year for the symbol to become commercially available, “we thought of doing something about it. Due to the rupee font viral (phenomenon) that was created, the symbol got approval from Unicode within three months and we consider it as a great achievement,” he says. (Each symbol has a position in the Unicode chart. It could have taken a year for the Indian rupee symbol to get a distinctive position in it.)

Koroth, a rank holder in electronics and communication engineering, was always interested in history, typography and logo designing. He initially worked with a cellular company as a network engineer and later started Foradian Technologies along with his batchmates. His advice to students wanting to take up font design as career is to take up engineering in computer-related fields and go for a course in graphic design.

A font designer should possess an artistic sensibility, be technically savvy and have basic understanding of fonts such as OPEN type and TRUE type etc. Also, to go for a full-time job as a font designer may not be sustainable, at least initially, he says. “Font design is an evolving field in India. My suggestion to youngsters is that they can also pursue logo designing as an option, to ensure a steady flow of income, at least initially.” He adds, “There is a lot of scope in India for font designers because there are more than 300 Indian languages. There will be a huge requirement for fonts in regional languages in the future.”

What's it about?
Every font designer’s work begins with a drawing on paper. The designer then moves to the computer to develop the design into a typeface. A font designer needs to know his alphabets – in English or any other language — well. His job is to turn mere alphabets into software and eventually character art. These fonts may be used by graphic designers for headings, titles or for that matter by anybody who makes use of language

Clock Work
Like artists and unlike computer programmers, font designers do not follow a fixed schedule. It is a purely creative field. They are given targets and set deadlines to complete the work at hand

The Payoff
Just as there is no fixed salary for an artist, there is no definite salary for a font designer. Freelancers can earn as much as Rs30,000 to start with and the sky is the limit they make a name for themselves as font designers

Alphabet for a font designer is a versatile thing that needs to be worked and reworked on
. Knowledge of the character map
. General competency with computers and working with programmes
. Artistic bent of mind

How do i get there?
All design courses have typography as an important component that teaches one all about development of fonts, how to use what font and

Institutes & urls
National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad
. Delhi College of Art
. Indian Institutes of Technology (MDesign),

Pros & CSons


One has to struggle and work extremely hard initially to make a name for oneself as a font designer


Also, even after one designs fonts, one needs buyers for them, which may be difficult to come by easily unless one is really good and experienced


A well-known font designer can make a lot of money. Several online font design companies such as type kit etc collect fonts from across the world

Font designing is now relatively simple

A senior expert advises that it is essential to train in a good design school in order to become a font designer

Tell us something about your work.
In India, there is a demand for specialised fonts and requirement-based font development (such as for advertising and greeting cards etc). I have worked on cursive writing fonts in English and Hindi.
A font designer designs fonts with application in software. Before the invention of font software, development of fonts was a long process but now it is a relatively simple and much more easier.

How does one become a font designer? Is specialised training required for this work?
Most font designers are trained in communication design, visual arts and applied arts. All these courses have typography as an important subject.
It is advisable to go through a graphic designing course to become a font designer.

What are the challenges before a font designer?
The greatest challenge before a font designer today is to find the right avenue to sell it.
The product also needs to have a competitive edge over existing fonts available on the Internet and with software development companies.
One needs an organised channel to sell one’s fonts such as software development companies, websites etc.

Shailesh Deshawar, font designer interviewed by Vandana Ramnani

First Published: Dec 07, 2010 09:53 IST