Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"The Coke side of life" in South Asia

So this is a wee bit late, but did anyone catch the special "Coke around the world" cans and bottles that came out during the Olympics? I'm not sure if it was an America only thing, but I remembered one day going to the store and having to choose between a Bengali, Sinhala, or Devanagari-scripted bottle! It was strange and wonderful and kind of disturbing all at the same time!

So I went to the Beijing 2008 Coke site in order to see the other world-script bottles available.. and found some decorative little flash animations displaying bits of architecture and flora and fauna of the respective countries. And strange little discriptions.. apparently, "The Coke side of life in Bangladesh" consists of "Monsoons, cyclones, Bengal tigers, and never a dull moment!" I found it confusing and almost offensive or something. I guess I don't know why I'd expect anything different.

But anyway, above is a sampling of some South Asian Coke-related things (one being a Malayalam Coke protest poster -- due to Coke's exploitation of water resources, pesticide content, and their pollution). Also, a bottle of Thums Up!, a popular cola that was bought by Coke in 1993.

Of the many, many things I should probably eliminate from my life, I suppose I should add Coke to my list..

Monday, September 1, 2008

Dan and Paul's Devanagari MATD type creations!

Remember that time a crazy girl from Minnesota started a South Asian type blog and then only posted 4 times in 3 months? Yeah, I do too. And it was so frustrating!!! Hopefully I can be forgiven though, before I'm declared dead...

Feast your eyes on some beautiful new typefaces created by the dedicated, talented U of Reading MATD students Dan Reynolds and Paul Hunt!!! They were kind enough to send me samples of their typefaces, which I am still fine-toothed-combing-over, trying to learn from their genius! Hee hee.

Dan's Martel typeface, features both Devanagari and Latin characters (with a plethora of diacritical marks for use with other European languages!) and was designed to live up to the great expectations of small-print newspaper design, including multiple weights and condensed characters. He paid close attention to stroke thickness and character height in each script in order to harmonize the over-all text color, making a seamless language integration! Ahhh!

I would describe Paul's Latin Grandia and Devanagari Gandhara typefaces as beautifully funky-chunky. He describes them as "Simple character construction with calligraphic flair." I'm not too great at writing. But bravo to him! His generous, squarish counters and bold serifs make for clear and distinct forms and beautiful negative space! He also created an generous library of beautiful conjuct characters! Ahhh again!

Anyway, please visit the sites of these two kind fellows - I'm sure they would love to talk type with anyone who is willing, and would love feedback and insight from regular Devanagari font users!!


Also, if any of you dear readers have a relevant personal site and wish for it to be included in my new list of "Type Friends" links on the right-hand side of the page, I'll gladly link to you! Please send me an email with your site!! I promise to be a better blog friend from now on.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The multi-talented Satyajit Ray

A long while back, I added Panther Panchali to my netflix queue, as I had heard of it being the most critically acclaimed film to come out of India. Though I'm still waiting to see it.. I ended up catching The Darjeeling Limited in the meantime, which included music by Satyajit Ray. I was intruged and decided to do a little more digging. Little did I know...

"Satyajit Ray was a man of multiple talents. Not only did he write the screenplays for all his films and score the music for all but his first five films, he was also a prolific, best selling author and a consummate artist." This wonderful website, that takes a detailed look at his life and works.

All of you Bengali type fans should check out his poster work, book jacket designs, and type design (scroll to the middle of the page - some great ones there!) AMAZING!!!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Back from Japan!

Holy cow, I've returned! Sorry, blog readers! I've been in the middle of a big life transition that has taken all of my concentration and energy aaand also away on a 2-week trip to Japan to visit a dear friend who is studying Japanese!

WOW, Japan was very visually overwhelming! Especially for someone who wants to look at every bit of signage and printed matter in the country. I took about a year of Japanese way back when, so I was already familiar with Hiragana and Katakana, but had no knowledge of Kanji. I think it was the first time I really thought about what an enormously difficult task Chinese type designers must have. I thought that nothing could be tougher than trying to fit in all of the dips and curves of Sinhala - but I must say, imagine dealing with this. And then try to use this popular Chinese search engine, Shohu. (here's an image, for those without Chinese language support) Wow. Welcome to the web for the rest of the world! It also reminded me of this post at the Ministry of Type on the difficulties of creating electronics interfaces due to the complexity of such characters.

Phew! Anyway, I could go on and on. But what I have been meaning to get to was that I found a few bits of Indic type while I was over there! So here they are! Some beautiful Bengali at an Indian restaurant, some Siddham script (Bonji in Japan) at a Buddhist temple, and what I believe to be Urdu, found at a park! So there you are! It's fun for me to see two different Asian scripts on one sign. It makes me giddy!

So once again, sorry for my extremely long absence. I hope to keep adding to this blog though, so don't give up on coming back! :)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Collection of Pakistani calligraphy

Just stumbled upon Calligraphy Islamic, which has lots of hidden gems! Above is an image from this interesting page, Muraqqa-e-Alif Laam Mim , which looks to be scans of a lettering guide by a calligrapher named Jacobus Michaeil. Also click on the Pakistani Calligraphers page for other interesting samples.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Chukki: Kannada typeface for the web updates!

Hi everyone! Sorry for the extreme lapse in posts! I know what will cheer you up... the wonderful update of Sanjay's Kannada typeface, Chukki! He was kind enough to contact me/us and share his amazing and beautiful process document pdf! It details his inspiration behind the project, his study in formal elements and technical restrictions, as well as type specimens using 9 and 7-pixel grids. He hopes we'll find it useful, and I'm sure we all will! Amazing!!!!

He also noted that he and his girlfriend are hoping to start an Indic type design studio! I sure hope they do - I'm sure they'll create many useful and beautiful works!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Postage of the British Raj

I tracked this seal down - and found a wealth of beautiful images. Check out the Royal Philatelic Society's page on the history of postage in the Jammu and Kashmir states of the British Raj. Geoffrey Hack's collection from the Princely States of India is also incredible! All sorts of beautiful old handwriting, seals, stamps, and printed type!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Arabic Letraset

Cool image from the fun "Arabic Script" book by Gabriel Mandel Khan, a great resource for Arabic calligraphy noobs like myself. Hopefully someday I'll find some Nastaliq and other South Asian styles to compare!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hava Aney Dey film poster

I just saw Hava Aney Dey this past weekend, a part of the Global Film Initiative's "Global Lens 2008" and loved the poster - so why not post it here? Yeah, if you get the chance, check it out! And also go see Opera Jawa - that one looked great!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Creating a Kannada typeface for the web

Wow, today is a lucky day! Point your browsers toward Sanjay Basavaraju's blog, Chukki: Kannada typeface for the web. He is a post-grad student at the National Institute of Design in India, and his blog takes a peek at his process. Hopefully we can get him to update us on how his project is going!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

How to write Punjabi letters

Hi again! I am experiencing another episode type dejavu! I opened up the library's copy of "Learn Punjabi in 30 Days" and found these familiar, very cool diagrams. Where had I seen these before? Haha. There are some famous commenters on that photo!

So, thanks again, South Asian Type Crew - great minds think alike! But yeah, more proof that we need to go to India and start documenting all of the REST of the type in India! I'll go get the boat ready.

Also: If any FontStruct-ers wanted to work off of those couple of Devanagari vowels I started, here's the link!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

"Strange Conjuncts" type resurfaces!

Holy smokes. I could barely believe my eyes! I opened one of the few South Asian language books at the Minneapolis Public Library, A Concise Elementary Grammar of the Sanskrit Language - and lo and behold, our favorite "strange conjuncts" mystery type shows up! So now my dears, feast your eyes on the beautiful forms! If anyone wants larger scans, or scans of all of the conjuncts, shoot me an email. AMAZING!!!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Interesting, ribbon-like Urdu poetry

Calligraphy by Zoya Zaidi. These make me want to animate some 3-dimensional ribbons floating to create these words! Wowee!

More cool Tibetan calligraphy - Tashi Mannox

View the Tashi Mannox gallery here!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

very old Tamil type

"One of the oldest printed samples of a Tamil foundry type in Europe."

* Image by Fernando de Mello Vargas, U of Reading graduate and designer of the award-winning Tamil typeface, Frida

See more here. I love piggybacking off of the University of Reading type design students! Huzzah!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sirensongs' images from Nepal

Above are images from Sirensongs' flickr collection, which includes loads of colorful images from her travels throughout South Asia. At the moment, she is located in Nepal, where elections have just been held in which the Maoist party won a majority of votes, ensuring the end of the Nepalese monarchy. She has also witnessed firsthand the clash between the local authorities and pro-Tibetan protesters. Her blog, Feringhee: The India Diaries is a really great resource and one of my favorite blogs. Check it out!

P.S. Star Trek fans - yes, the Ferengi got their name from the Arabic/Persian/Urdu term meaning European traders/foreigners/Westerners.

Monday, April 21, 2008

FontStruct updates...

Hi. If anyone out there has started working on any Indic scripts in FontStruct - lemme know! I'd love to find out what "scale" you're using, in order to leave room for vowel maatras etc. I had just spent a bunch of time starting this alphabet, but I think I made it too large on the grid. Sigh. Maybe I'll just make designs in illustrator!

Building the collection...

more book covers!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Amazing Tibetan calligraphy by Nathanael Archer

Wow. You must check out the calligraphy work of Nathanael Archer. The finished pieces , doodles, and sketches are equally inspiring!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Bengali handwriting of Rabindranath Tagore

Here is a peek at the handwriting of the famous Bengali poet, artist, composer, novelist, and Nobel prize winner, Rabindranath Tagore. Read more of the above poem, Fireflies, here. Some additional samples of his writing can be found here. And more of his handwriting/doodles here. I especially like this one.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Indic fonts for Indica

Another cop-out posting on my part... but I've found a few more type samples at Summit India, a company that produced Indica, "The first implementation of Indian languages on MS Windows™ and Apple Macintosh in India, Indica is used by all major newspapers, magazines and other publishers across the country and is considered the leading Indian languages software in the world."

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

More scripture images

Sorry again folks, I'm going through a rough time right now and haven't been able to put any time into this endeavor. Hopefully things will change soon, though. In the meantime, here are some more images from that scripture site. This time, Panjabi, Oriya, Telugu, and Urdu.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Free online font editor - that allows Indic Scripts!

Sorry to anyone who regularly stops here for the latest and greatest tidbits of Indic script goodness - I haven't posted in a while and have left you starving for type! (A week is a long time in internet-time.)

Luckily, I have a real cool piece of news! Floating around the design "blogosphere" this morning was a new free, online font editor from FontShop called "FontStruct". Users can rate, share, and download their font creations! (And they're YOURS, under Creative Commons licensing.) But the best part, and most relevant to this blog, is that they offer non-latin character sets!!!

Arabic, Devenagari [sic], Bengali, Gurmukhi, Gujarati, and Sinhala are all options! I don't know much else about it yet, as I will spend my evening tinkering with it, but I'm sure it'll be my new favorite toy! Woohoo!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Strange Devanagari conjuncts

I don't have enough knowledge of Hindi or Sanskrit to be able to explain all of these strange conjunct forms, but they sure are interesting to look at!! "CallingTo", a flickr user, has uploaded a bunch of scans of strange letterforms. Check them out! I should probably hunt this fellow down to learn more!

And if anyone can make it, in a few hours, you should check out Typography Day 2008. I'm on the wrong continent. ... er... sub-continent? Also, if anyone wants to take over my job, but split my salary so that I can do this full-time, let me know. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

2,700 Indian fonts - wow!

Wowzers, another great Indian type catalog, from Modular Infotech - that claims to be the largest one available - and can be downloaded via .pdf specimens. A great resource to begin comparing and contrasting letterforms and to see what's available in the world of fonts. Some Hindi display fonts are seen above.

Also, check out this previous post for more type.

Monday, March 24, 2008

An Approach to Type Design and P.K. Ghosh

An Approach to Type Design and Text Composition in Indian Scripts
, by P.K. Ghosh - an amazing document, available in .pdf format. Answers a lot of questions about the history of Devanagari printing, the formation of the letterforms, and the future of font development. Also, you can see on the right, additional examples of how northern scripts were derived from flat-tipped pens, and the southern scripts derived from pointed/round-tipped pens.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Holi hai!

In celebration of Holi, the Festival of Colors, I thought I would post images of some of the vibrant and funny e-cards representing the festival. Also above on the right is an image from renowned calligrapher, Achyut Palav. Some actual images of the colorful day can be found here at BBC Hindi.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bengali protesters and political posters

So this is slightly random - I just celebrated my birthday, which also happens to be "International Women's Day", according to my calendar. This year, I was finally curious enough to try to learn what that meant. Off to Wikipedia I went! It turns out that it was originally a day associated with the Socialist party, in which women workers in the newly industrialized world, were protesting for better working conditions. - Which might seem distant to we readers of design blogs, but of course is an issue of enormous importance in the developing world.

The image on the left, above, shows women of a trade union from Dhaka, Bangladesh protesting on International Women's Day, holding amazingly beautiful, powerful signs. Equally powerful are the red and black Communist Party signs on the right, found in Kolkata. See many more amazing images posted by Wikimedia contributor, Soman.

P.S. Thanks again to Prof. Erik Brandt at Geotypografika for spreadin' the Hindi Rinny word! Shukriya!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Linguistic map of India

"Language families and branches, languages and dialects" FROM A HISOTICAL ATLAS OF SOUTH ASIA, OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS. NEW YORK, 1992

I just had to post this map - it has SO much information. I only wish it were larger. Note the script break-down in the map on the lower left-hand corner!

I often find it hard to comprehend the diversity and huge number of people in South Asia, so infographics and charts always help me. Especially amazing is this Wikipedia page on the number of Indian languages by number of native speakers.

Some quick interesting facts: Encarta estimates that 336 million Indians speak Hindi as their first language. Aside from Tibetan, the rest of the languages whose scripts are profiled on my blog have est. between 32.3 - 69.9 million native speakers each. There are 416 living languages in India. 19.4% of Indians are bilingual, 7.2% trilingual. An estimated 350 million Indians speak English as a second language, making it the second-largest English-speaking population after the U.S.. There are approximately 1.13 billion Indians alive today. One out of every 6 people on the Earth is Indian.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Gurmukhi typography

Clicking through the script categories on the right, I realized that I have been neglecting Gurmukhi! It seems like it's one of the harder scripts to find online, though. So, here it is! My small Gurmukhi collection! There are some interesting hand-drawn display-type script samples from this Sikh heritage site, attributed to the late Dr. Channan Singh Chan. Two other examples are from here.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Oriya / Odia books online

So far, I've found that Oriya has been a really tricky script to find online. This great site, Odia, has downloadable pdf booklets in the Oriya language (where the text above has come from) and links to other Oriya content on the net, including fonts and news sites. It's really amazing to see the script en masse on the book pages - such interesting repetitious curved forms! I think I need to view all of the languages in book format more often to help my American eyes get used to such seemingly complex letterfoms!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Fingerspelling in Sinhala

Beautiful and interesting diagram of fingerspelling in the Sri Lankan language, Sinhala. The English sounds have been matched to the basic sounds of Sinhala, and then other signs are added to represent any vowels/modifiers. It's explained really well at Found In Ceylon.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Hindi palm leaf manuscript

Wonderful samples of Devanagari script on palm leaf manuscripts! 1 2 3 4 Interesting non-connecting characters and some strange vowel maatras.
Hosted by Columbia University, where these resources were also linked: Resources for S and SE Asian Languages and Cultures, SARAI, and SAJA.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Evolution of Bengali script

"The modern script was formalized in 1778 when it was first typeset by Charles Wilkins. ...

Clusters of consonants are represented by different and sometimes quite irregular characters; thus, learning to read the script is complicated by the sheer size of the full set of characters and character combinations, numbering about 500. While efforts at standardizing the script for the Bengali language continue in such notable centers as the Bangla Academies (unaffiliated) at Dhaka (Bangladesh) and Kolkata (West Bengal, India), it is still not quite uniform as yet, as many people continue to use various archaic forms of letters, resulting in concurrent forms for the same sounds. Among the various regional variations within this script, only the Assamese and Bengali variations exist today in the formalized system.

It seems likely that the standardization of the script will be greatly influenced by the need to typeset it on computers. The large alphabet can be represented, with a great deal of ingenuity, within the ASCII character set, omitting certain irregular conjuncts. Work has been underway since around 2001 to develop Unicode fonts, and it seems likely that it will split into two variants, traditional and modern." - Wikipedia article on Bengali Script

The image above and some more info are located here.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sinhalese palm-leaf manuscripts

In order to better understand the origins of the letterforms of South Asian scripts, I've been searching for the earliest writings and printing samples I can find. In contrast to the calligraphic forms of handwritten Sanskrit, the Dravidian scripts of South South Asia are distinctively curved and don't seem to have been originally created by same writing implement. So I was delighted to find a GREAT article about the creation of palm-leaf manuscripts - and how Sinhalese was written onto the leaves!

" The scribe, usually a monk or a scholar, uses a stylus for writing. The scribe places the leaf strip on the palm of hand, as it is easier to gauge the pressure needed for writing. The letters are written from left to right and the scribe uses the parallel lines of the veins of the leaf to guide him to write straight."

"The letters etched with the stylus are colourless and therefore difficult to read. So it has to be ‘inked’ in a special manner. ... Leaf surface is rubbed with a wad of soft cotton cloth dipped in the resinous oil and ... with charcoal. ... The letters on the palm leaf then appears dark black and the words are distinct and easy to read."

I assume that using more curved forms was the best way to prevent the leaf from cracking along the veins. I'll dig into this further!

Long before papermaking made its journey to India, religious and scientific texts were written on these amazing portable manuscripts. I'm sure you'll see many more here as I begin to track down the origins of other scripts!

Images and other links here!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Sample of Hindi film poster type

A bunch of great chunky/decorative type from Bollywood posters of the past. Collected from the hotspot poster collection.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Hindi word shape play

I've returned to my huge folder of book covers from and found all of these covers with interesting word clusters! There's even a turtle!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Type designs from MA students at the University of Reading

I love how the type design community is small enough that almost everyone is connected in some way! So, I was looking through flickr images the other day and I found photos from a group of students who were students at the University of Reading MA in type design. - I clicked through some links, and ultimately found specimens of the typefaces they designed. And lo and behold, my teacher Nicole Dotin was in their class! And, to make things even dandier, three of the students had designed typefaces that had accompanying South Asian faces!!!

Above is Surat, a Gujarati design by David Brezina.
Vesper, a Devanagari typeface by Rob Keller.
and Frida, a Tamil typeface by Fernando de Mello Vargas.

Absolutely beauuutiful designs! Download the pdfs to get a closer look!
Also check out the previous class - someone made an Arabic face, another chose Tibetan!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Save Kannada

So in an effort to back-track through my posts and try to insert more contextual/credit information, I found that the Kannada newspaper article had been linked to by this site, Me having type on the brain, the first thing I noticed was that the Kannada font used on the site was incredibly legible, as opposed to most Indian-language websites I've browsed. I'm thinking "The creators really understand how to find/make the best Kannada font for the screen! They must really want to save Kannada!"

So, when I clicked on the English translation link, I was able to read the sad story on the page. It really was written by people hoping to save the integrity of their language in the digital age. It turns out that Microsoft has continually published software with numerous errors in its translation and usage of Kannada script and ignored programmers'/consumers' complaints about the product. But to make matters worse, Microsoft and the government of Karnataka have signed an agreement to "implement e-governance and paper-less government offices in the state." Which means that they'd be stuck using software that has butchered their native language with no remorse.

It has always confused and bothered me that the web has been SO incredibly dominated by English.. I'm only just beginning to read about the complexities of Unicode and the inputting of non-latin scripts on the internet, let alone using a complex script in Microsoft Word and other basic programs. This kind of 21st century cultural imperialism hopefully can be reduced and counter-acted with the brilliant programmers in the open source movement.. most of which are probably living in Bangalore, native speakers of Kannada. Ha, I'll stop now before I sound like a total idiot. I must read more!! Anyway, check out the site!

Hail Mary Handwriting

Love 'em or hate 'em, Christian missionaries and scholars have left us with a wealth of language documentation. This archive contains hundreds of language samples - and to my delight - most are handwritten!! I'd love to get my hands on as much everyday, handwritten bits as possible - if anyone could point me towards more, I'd be eternally grateful.

Monday, March 3, 2008

*English/Anglo-Canadian designers' take on Devanagari

I read on Geotypografika that there were a lot of non-latin typefaces chosen as Type Directors Club best type designs of the year. Could it be that maybe there just aren't many non-latin typefaces in existence? (Due to many sad reasons) - And maybe the fact that our economy is going to the shitter - combined with global warming awareness - has helped us to realize that we Americans are not alone on the planet? I don't know. Why am I so bitter today? Anyway, YAY for this typeface, Vodafone Hindi. I hope I can make Erin Hindi sometime soon.

*I erroneously labeled this as a Dutch design! So sorry! As John (one of the designers!) comments below, this was designed by Tiro.

Kannada online newspaper article

So, while image-searching for Kannada type examples, I found this online newspaper image. It is a clipping from the "e-paper". What a great way to gain insight into typographic India! Also check out for some nice Kannada type.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Evolution from Brahmi

I'm finally getting more serious about making my South Asian type dreams come true! So that means, in addition to just collecting interesting typography examples, I'll start posting more research/history/informative entries. Hopefully they'll help someone else out there!

In studying Latin-based typography, it was SO helpful to learn the full evolution of writing systems, and the variants in environment, geography, culture, language, and technology that determine why letterforms from different cultures look the way they do. So now I'm on a quest to thoroughly research the history of South Asian writing - I'm not expecting that I'll be able to make posts in historical chronological order, but I'll at least try to get more and more in-depth, so it'll be worth it! Let's crack open the internet and see what I can find! (Hopefully there will be plenty written in English!)

Anyway, above are two diagrams showing the basic evolution of different scripts, all originating from Brahmi. The left image shows South Asian scripts, the diagram on the right shows South-East Asian scripts, which evolved from the 6th century Southern deviation. Found on Colorado State's Languages and Scripts of India page.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

nice old page

another nice example of old type.. I think I like the bottom style the best

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

world scripts goldmine

phew!! This scripture site has loads of hundred-year-old bible pages in native languages from all over the world. It's so great to see actual old printed specimens of these languages! I think I saved about 60 pictures from that site. Check it out, for real. (above are Nepali, Bengali, and Tamil)