Sumitra of the Gond tribe of Chhattisgarh creates type out of Godna tattoo art, as a part of The Typecraft Initiative.
Sumitra of the Gond tribe of Chhattisgarh creates type out of Godna tattoo art, as a part of The Typecraft Initiative.

Breaking stereoTYPES: How artists blend art and alphabet

For urban users, type is now becoming an exciting way to engage with traditional and contemporary design. For the artists, it’s a new way to keep traditions relevant in a digital age
By Anesha George | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON OCT 16, 2017 03:38 PM IST

When Ram Keli, Sumitra and Sunita, of the Gond tribe of Chhattisgarh, would tattoo the women in their community, they never imagined that the ancient motifs — scorpions, fishbones, even a slice of karela — would find their way into the complicated world of fonts.

But, in 2012, they met type designer Ishan Khosla, who launched the self-funded project Typecraft Initiative aimed at reviving the struggling Godna tattooing style after it lost favour with the increasingly modernised tribe.

Ancient Godna motifs — scorpions, fishbones, even a slice of karela — have found their way into the complicated world of fonts, through the initiative.
Ancient Godna motifs — scorpions, fishbones, even a slice of karela — have found their way into the complicated world of fonts, through the initiative.

Khosla’s initiative engaged women Gond artists (most of them with no formal education) to recreate those traditional designs as a new typeface for the English alphabet. The results were astounding. Leaves, flowers and geometric patterns effortlessly merge to form shapes from A to Z. Those who want to use these letters as a font can purchase it on the Typecraft website – the proceeds go directly to artisan livelihood programmes.

In the process, Khosla learnt that minor details like scale make a huge difference. “ Designs that look good on the computer may actually be too fine or too small for embroidery, so understanding the scale in which craftspeople work is important,” he says. He also hopes that the digital version of the typeface can further be promoted by the state government. “It can be used as the official state typeface for tourism or railway station signage to bring the focus back to these communities and lead to more commissions for the community of artisans.”

Type created from Chittara art from Karnataka. Only five families still paint these intricate geometric murals using red stone powder, clay and fruit extracts in the state. (The Typecraft Initiative)
Type created from Chittara art from Karnataka. Only five families still paint these intricate geometric murals using red stone powder, clay and fruit extracts in the state. (The Typecraft Initiative)

Khosla has developed eight typefaces based on motifs ranging from Kutchi embroidery to Mithila paintings from Bihar. For the Godna and Chittara art from Karnataka (where only five families still paint intricate geometric murals using red stone powder, clay and fruit extracts) he collaborated with Spanish type designer, Andreu Balius. Typecraft Initiative hopes to create at least one typeface from each of India’s states. “So far we have only worked on Latin script based typefaces. We now want to work with Indic scripts as well,” he says.

Gujarati Ahir embroidery is also a part of the initiative launched by Ishan Khosla. (The Typecraft Initiative)
Gujarati Ahir embroidery is also a part of the initiative launched by Ishan Khosla. (The Typecraft Initiative)

Designers are coming up with innovative ways to show more of India’s rich culture and history through typefaces. For urban users, it’s an exciting new way to engage with traditional and contemporary design. For the artists, it’s a new way to keep traditions relevant in a digital age. Type is also making inroads into the world of pop culture and public art.

Typing-It-Up in public

To bridge the gap between type and art, Pooja Saxena, 29, a graphic designer based in Delhi along with her fellow designer Kriti Monga, started organising Typerventions, or font installations in public spaces. “We started off in 2011 in Delhi, where people assembled in public spaces like Hauz Khas and Lodhi Garden to explore their creative side by making font installations,” she says.

One event used 600 paper boats, folded by about 15 volunteers and stitched together to form the English alphabet in cursive style. The boats were then set afloat in the Hauz Khas tank. “Most people joined in because they wanted to explore the otherwise complicated world of font creation that is seen only in the digital space,” Saxena says. “We showed how new fonts can be created offline as well.”

600 paper boats were stitched together to form the English alphabet in cursive style and set afloat in the Hauz Khas tank at a Delhi Typervention. (Pic courtesy: Pooja Saxena)
600 paper boats were stitched together to form the English alphabet in cursive style and set afloat in the Hauz Khas tank at a Delhi Typervention. (Pic courtesy: Pooja Saxena)

When she shifted to Bengaluru in 2013, the Typerventions moved with her. Locals created new fonts using food items like corn, beans, jam, banana peels and masking tape and taking inspiration from the scripts of different languages.

Locals created new fonts using food items like salt to write witty phrases in different languages at a Bangalore typervention. (Pic courtesy: Pooja Saxena)
Locals created new fonts using food items like salt to write witty phrases in different languages at a Bangalore typervention. (Pic courtesy: Pooja Saxena)

Nirbheek Chauhan, 29, a software developer in Bangalore, recalls attending a session in Cubbon Park two years ago. “What I loved best was that a layman like me could explore lettering using everyday items like banana peels or nachos to create interesting type not just in English, but Kannada, Tamil and Hindi,” he says. “There was also the added challenge of being witty in my phrasing and saving my ‘art work’ from ants and insects.”

The typervention gave people a chance to explore the world of lettering, while also trying to come up with witty phrases. (Pic courtesy: Pooja Saxena)
The typervention gave people a chance to explore the world of lettering, while also trying to come up with witty phrases. (Pic courtesy: Pooja Saxena)

There are typography boot camps and workshops round the year, some organised by type foundries and others by independent type designers, advertised on Facebook. The people who sign up range from engineers and developers to photographers, apart from designers.

When products are the ‘arty type’

Brands like Mumbai-based Kulture Shop, which sells quirky lifestyle products by graphic artists, have done their bit to make the merging world of typography and art easily available to the public. Kulture Shop, which also functions as a collective, has over 80 artists creating designs for 13 product categories. “Typography on T-shirts is something that really flies off the shelf, because it’s bold and makes a statement which people relate to,” says co-founder Kunal Anand.

Bahubhashi means multilingual and the type is an amalgamation of scripts from languages like Bengali, Gujarati, Urdu, Tamil, Odiya and Kannada. It is available for purchase on Kulture Shop.
Bahubhashi means multilingual and the type is an amalgamation of scripts from languages like Bengali, Gujarati, Urdu, Tamil, Odiya and Kannada. It is available for purchase on Kulture Shop.

Kanpur-based type designer Shreyansh Agarwal’s Bahubashi type has made it to cups, T-shirts and laptop skins on Kulture Shop. “Bahubhashi means multilingual and is an amalgamation of scripts from languages like Bengali, Gujarati, Urdu, Tamil, Odiya and Kannada,” says the 26-year-old designer. When you ask him what made himcome up with this, he says, “It’s the best way one can express the diversity in India as one through art.”

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
app
Close
Now, the pink viburnum is in bloom, and forsythia buds poke out between the bronze forms.(AP)
Now, the pink viburnum is in bloom, and forsythia buds poke out between the bronze forms.(AP)

Rodin Museum sculpture garden reopens to public

AP, Paris
PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 09:44 AM IST
There is a ray of light for Parisians who, like the rest of the French nation this weekend, begin to observe a tightened coronavirus curfew: The famous Rodin Museum sculpture gardens is reopening to visitors.
Close
The French nation this weekend, begin to observe a tightened coronavirus curfew: The famous Rodin Museum sculpture gardens is reopening to visitors.(Yahoo)
The French nation this weekend, begin to observe a tightened coronavirus curfew: The famous Rodin Museum sculpture gardens is reopening to visitors.(Yahoo)

Rodin Museum sculpture garden reopens to public

AP
PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 09:42 AM IST
The French nation this weekend, begin to observe a tightened coronavirus curfew: The famous Rodin Museum sculpture gardens is reopening to visitors.
Close
Recipe: These chilli roasted chickpeas are sure to tantalize your taste buds(Instagram/zestmylemon)
Recipe: These chilli roasted chickpeas are sure to tantalize your taste buds(Instagram/zestmylemon)

Recipe: These chilli roasted chickpeas are sure to tantalize your taste buds

By Zarafshan Shiraz
UPDATED ON JAN 18, 2021 09:16 AM IST
  • Move over the regular chilli chicken or chilli paneer and check out this recipe of chilli roasted chickpeas that serve as a perfect snack, along with a meal or a topping for a soup or salad and will surely boost your Monday energy the right kick
Close
college basketball coaches are going casual(Twitter/LadyTopperHoops)
college basketball coaches are going casual(Twitter/LadyTopperHoops)

Comfort over style is the new fashion trend among basketball coaches in America

AP
PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 08:40 AM IST
  • NBA coaches' casual dressing, during the league at Walt Disney World in Florida, inspires basketball coaches across America to eschew the traditional game day attire of coats, ties and dress slacks in favour of polos, quarter-zips and warmup pants as comfort over style becomes the new fashion trend
Close
Here's how changing diets might drive global rise in childhood obesity(Twitter/efad_org)
Here's how changing diets might drive global rise in childhood obesity(Twitter/efad_org)

Here's how changing diets might drive global rise in childhood obesity

ANI
UPDATED ON JAN 18, 2021 08:18 AM IST
A new study has found that changing diets, not less physical activity, may best explain childhood obesity crisis
Close
Australia likely to keep borders closed this year to avoid Covid-19 spread(Twitter/destiinations)
Australia likely to keep borders closed this year to avoid Covid-19 spread(Twitter/destiinations)

Australia likely to keep borders closed this year to avoid Covid-19 spread

Reuters
UPDATED ON JAN 18, 2021 08:18 AM IST
Australia unlikely to fully reopen borders in 2021 even as coronavirus cases slide and even if most of the population is vaccinated against Covid-19
Close
Khushi Kapoor's Delhi winter look consists of crop sweaters(Instagram/khushi05k)
Khushi Kapoor's Delhi winter look consists of crop sweaters(Instagram/khushi05k)

Khushi Kapoor's Delhi winter look is all about crop sweaters and golden hour

By Nishtha Grover
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 06:45 PM IST
  • Khushi Kapoor is currently holidaying in Delhi and giving us winter wardrobe inspiration. The 20-year-old has been spotted wearing a lot of delicate crop sweaters and wide-legged pants.
Close
Raab warned on Sunday there would be more checks by Public Health England to make sure people are self-isolating in their own homes for 10 days after arrival.(Pixabay)
Raab warned on Sunday there would be more checks by Public Health England to make sure people are self-isolating in their own homes for 10 days after arrival.(Pixabay)

UK doesn’t rule out quarantine hotels, GPS to fight virus

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 06:13 PM IST
The U.K. government will “consider all possibilities” to enforce Covid-19 rules for travelers, and won’t rule out setting up quarantine hotels and using GPS trackers to fight the spread of the coronavirus
Close
"It's a small study, but it is the first to show the potential of using metabolic markers as predictive clinical indicators of patients at greatest risk -- and lower risk -- for recurring bouts of major depressive symptoms," added Naviaux.(Unsplash)
"It's a small study, but it is the first to show the potential of using metabolic markers as predictive clinical indicators of patients at greatest risk -- and lower risk -- for recurring bouts of major depressive symptoms," added Naviaux.(Unsplash)

Study finds metabolism's possible role in depression

ANI, Washington [us]
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 06:05 PM IST
Certain metabolites may be predictive indicators for persons at risk for recurrent major depressive disorder, suggests a recent study by researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, in collaboration with Dutch scientists.
Close
Immunotherapies are cancer drugs that essentially block the "don't-eat-me" signal coming from cancer and allow the immune-system to kill it.(Unsplash)
Immunotherapies are cancer drugs that essentially block the "don't-eat-me" signal coming from cancer and allow the immune-system to kill it.(Unsplash)

Researchers find how cancer can be killed by body's own immune system

ANI, Washington [us]
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 05:59 PM IST
A new way to help the body's immune system get past that deception and destroy cancer, has been found by a University of Missouri researcher.
Close
Food insufficiency, the most extreme form of food insecurity, occurs when families do not have enough food to eat.(Unsplash)
Food insufficiency, the most extreme form of food insecurity, occurs when families do not have enough food to eat.(Unsplash)

Study: Covid-19 pandemic induced food inadequacy is connected to depression

ANI, Washington [us]
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 05:49 PM IST
A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that a 25 per cent ascend in food deficiency during the Covid-19 hit pandemic is connected to demolished psychological wellness.
Close
India's first Labour Movement museum to come up in Kerala(Pexels)
India's first Labour Movement museum to come up in Kerala(Pexels)

Kerala will soon have India's first ever Labour Movement museum

PTI, Kochi
UPDATED ON JAN 17, 2021 05:08 PM IST
  • Labour Movement museum, that is opening up in Alappuzha, Kerala, will the the first of its kind museum in India. It will showcase the history of world labour movement through huge repository of documents and exhibits.
Close
Recipe: Prepare vegan gluten-free banana pancakes in less than 20 minutes(Instagram/ peanutbutterandjillybeans)
Recipe: Prepare vegan gluten-free banana pancakes in less than 20 minutes(Instagram/ peanutbutterandjillybeans)

Recipe: Prepare vegan gluten-free banana pancakes in less than 20 minutes

By Zarafshan Shiraz
UPDATED ON JAN 17, 2021 04:33 PM IST
  • Looking to give gluten the hook? Check out this delicious vegan recipe that preps up super fluffy and light banana pancakes which are golden and crisp on the outside and will make you forget you ever missed gluten
Close
Taapsee Pannu loves her healthy laddoos(Instagram/taapsee)
Taapsee Pannu loves her healthy laddoos(Instagram/taapsee)

Taapsee Pannu's healthy laddoos will give any dessert a run for its money

By Nishtha Grover, Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 17, 2021 04:22 PM IST
  • Taapsee Pannu has been following a diet for the preparation of her film Rashmi Rocket. However, her diet is not as boring as one would imagine. It even includes laddoos. Yes, you can read that again.
Close
The Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and National Award-winning poet has immortalised his name in the world of Indian poetry and literature through the work that he has done in a career spanning four decades.(Wikimedia Commons )
The Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and National Award-winning poet has immortalised his name in the world of Indian poetry and literature through the work that he has done in a career spanning four decades.(Wikimedia Commons )

On Javed Akhtar's 76th birthday, lets look at some of his soul-stirring lyrics

ANI, New Delhi [india]
UPDATED ON JAN 17, 2021 05:36 PM IST
A literary figure par excellence who touched many hearts through his soul-stirring writings, veteran poet, lyricist and screenwriter Javed Akhtar turned 76 on Sunday.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP