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.