Cross Cultural Typography - Display Type Design

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Rohini Rathi's picture
Joined: 4 Sep 2009 - 8:17pm
Cross Cultural Typography - Display Type Design

Hello -

I'm a MFA student at Parsons the New School Of Design at NY, USA. For my Master's thesis I am pursuing a typeface design project -

English + Hindi = Hinglish
"Hinglish" is emerging as a commonly spoken language in India and amongst Indians living in USA and UK. It is used vocally, while chatting and it is often seen in popular culture such as TV shows, Movies, Books, Magazines, Chat rooms, Song lyrics etc.

I want to design TWO display fonts that reflect this notion of being Hinglish. - A Latin (English) font that is influenced by Indian Culture and a Devnaagri (Hindi) font that is influenced by Western Culture. I hope to create a scenario for compare and contrast with my two fonts that can both reflect the notion of being cross-cultural.

Examples of influences from Indian culture are:
henna, Rangoli, folk art, Warli, batik paintings, paisley designs, peacock symbolism, Indian Jewellery, miniature paintings, architecture, temples, religion, Bollywood etc

Examples of Western Influences are:
art deco, neon signs, grunge look, pop art, mordernism etc

1) I am of Indian origin studying in the US and would like my work to reflect that duality.

2) There are very few Display fonts available in Hindi and this has limited their use in
graphic design in India. Also amongst the ones available they are not influenced by such western motifs-

3) There are very few display fonts in English of Indian influence - Barring a few exampls like -

kalakari - by beth Shirrell
Samaro and samaran

India has a rich aesthetic tradition and I want to bring that into my display fonts.

4) I hope these fonts can comment and reflect upon today's era of globalization and high information exchange.

5) I chose to design Display fonts over a body copy as it allows me to be more expressive and pay more attention to aesthetics over legibility.

1) Inspired by Indian Jewellery:

2) Inspired by Warli Folk art:

3) Inspired by Indian Instruments:

Please feel free to comment on - my concepts, motivations, preliminary sketches and more -
Any feedback, thoughts and suggestions would be most appreciated.

Thank you,

Gillian Fisher's picture
Joined: 3 Jan 2008 - 8:38am

Hi Rohini! How are you? I have nothing useful to say except that I like the jewelry inspired designs...

Eric Nord's picture
Joined: 12 Sep 2008 - 4:34pm

My feeling is that a Latin alphabet is a Latin alphabet. You can decorate and distort it, but it will always be fundamentally Latin, particularly typographically. Trying to Hindi-anize it is like putting lipstick on a pig (sorry, bad metaphor ;-)

OK... a better metaphor... take a random non-Indian, put stereotypically Indian clothing on them and ask them to speak with an "Indian" accent. I would not find that meaningful or interesting.

Personally, I think it would be more interesting to see meaningful comparisons or combined uses of English and Hindi. Maybe you could create pieces with side-by-side English and Hindi. You could craete visual metaphors for single words, and then alternate between showing the word in Hindi and English.

I think one of the most interesting a meaningful things about language is when a word has no exact equivalent in another language. Or maybe the concept is just not as widely understood. Some examples would be Juche, Zen, Karma, etc.

Anyway, I hope that is good feedback. I do think the project has a lot of potential, especially if you are well versed in "Hinglish". That is something people want to learn about and experience, but in a more meaningful way than type decoration.

Karambir Singh Rohilla's picture
Joined: 16 Oct 2007 - 2:21am

Hi rohini
i am a typeface designer from new delhi. if u want any help in type design . plz tell me.

karambir singh rohilla

Adam Dawkins's picture
Joined: 22 Nov 2010 - 6:10pm

Hi Rohini,

I like the idea of the project, but if I'm honest, without the photos and explanation, I wouldn't have sensed anything 'Indian' about any of those Latin initial sketches. That could be that I have the wrong perception of what is 'Indian', but I think it's more that they just look like decorated or oddly shaped Latin letters.

I think with type you may be better off drawing your influences from type. What I mean is, it might be possible to do a Latin alphabet that has the feel of some of the forms of Hindi glyphs, as opposed to trying to decorate a Latin alphabet with 'Indian' things.

If that doesn't work, maybe dirtcastle's idea makes sense:

"Personally, I think it would be more interesting to see meaningful comparisons or combined uses of English and Hindi. Maybe you could create pieces with side-by-side English and Hindi."

I think you could do a wonderful piece with combining the two. It would very representative of 'Hinglish' to find two typefaces that can be read in the same line, so that just as Hinglish flows back and fourth between Hindi and English, maybe so could the text.

It could be interesting to see some Hinglish dialogue written with the English words with the Latin Alphabet, and Hindi words with the Hindi alphabet.

Just an idea - the initial sketches don't really seem to match up with the brief for me, though. Sorry!

Adam Dawkins's picture
Joined: 22 Nov 2010 - 6:10pm

Woah, didn't see the date on this one!