Aksharaya at Typography Day 2012 @ IDC, IIT Mumbai

After the first Typography Day in 2008, this year, the event was once again held at the Industrial Design Centre, IIT, Bombay. In sync with the theme of the conference, ‘Typography in Publication Design’, Aksharaya showcased an installationof newspapers mastheads collected from several nooks and corners of India. Newspaper mastheads being a reflection of the collective aesthetic of a community, thisinstallation gave the audience a glimpse of the enormous diversity that our country offers. From major cities as well as some remote areas people sent across a variety of newspapers helping us build a collection of 500 plus mastheads that included no less than a range of 16 Indian languages spread across 12 different scripts! The collection process was carried out for almost two months before the event and taking a step further, Aksharaya now plans to document all the mastheads to make them available online. for public viewing.

 Newspaper Installation | Multilingual Newspapers
Newspaper Installation | Multilingual Newspapers


Aksharsanvad – An Interview with Sunil Khandbahale @SJJCOA, Mumbai

A single word can change your life”, believes Sunil Khandbahale, who made the knowledge of innumerable words available to people through his creation, the first Marathi to English talking dictionary. In his interview conducted by the iconoclassic writer Gangadhar Menon during the 13th session of Aksharsanwad, Sunil spoke about his work, shared his journey towards attainment of these goals and his methods of functioning.

Coming from an extremely humble background, Sunil grew up in a tiny hamlet called Mahirawani near Nashik. Having being schooled through Marathi medium, Sunil often faced difficulties in understanding words in English, in college. It is from here that he developed an obsession for immediately looking up meanings of these words in a dictionary. Empathizing with this learning obstacle that most students from vernacular backgrounds face, the seed for his passion fordeveloping a talking dictionary was sown.Today, at the age of 33, Sunil’s illustrious career graph boasts of talking dictionaries not only in Marathi but 10 Indian languages that are available on www.khandbahale.com, a mobile dictionary, a Devnagari font, and several other related softwares.

Without absolutely any training or computer education, Sunil developed the softwares through self-learning and experimentation. He took assistance from many language experts to create a database for the dictionary. They helped him in word corrections, finding alternate words, compilation etc. Words were also collected using smart technologies hosted on websites, blogs, news portals etc. The dictionary has been designed in such a way that it provides multiple meanings of the same word starting from the most commonly used/accepted word.In case someone searches for a word that is unavailable, it automatically gets registered, add is added to the dictionary. Thus the software is constantly being improved. He also developed a phonetic based font for usage in the software.The dictionaries is also compatible with softwares like Microsoft Office.

Not only is the dictionary available online but Sunil and his team have also developed the dictionaries as mobile applications, SMS portal and Tablet applications. Alongside Sunil is also working on domain specific dictionaries in order to cater to the terminologies that are specific to different verticals. For e.g. terminologies used in agriculture, medicine and art will be completely different from each other and therefore separate dictionaries would be required to cover each of the domains.

When asked about the functioning of his business, Sunil described it as a unique industry model where people come together on a virtual platform and work on the projects from their different locations. And the impressive part of the entire work culture is that the projects are social. Most of these products and services are available for free to everyone. Several qualified people are associated with this cause on a completely non-commercial basis.

 27 April 2012 \ Auditorium of Sir J. J. College of Architecture, Mumbai
27 April 2012 \ Auditorium of Sir J. J. College of Architecture, Mumbai

Sunil has declined several offers from multinational companies to make his softwares and applications available for commercial exploration only to ensure that sharing of knowledge would not be hindered due to economical obstacles. Describing Sunil’s incredible feats, Gangadhar Menon addressed the audience to note that the journey of understanding failure is more important than understanding success itself. This mammoth task achieved by the genius is a result of consistent hard work and perseverance. Today, www.khandbahale.com is a top ranking website on all search-engines for Indian languages. It is recognized as an industry leader by giants like Nokia, Microsoft and Google for Indian regional language development. Their work has been appreciated by number of governments and they have been awarded by various institutes.Today more than 6 crore people are being benefited though his work worldwide.What started once at individual level has now become a big organization.

Aksharsanvad, 2011, A Talk by Mahindra Patel @SJJCOA, Mumbai

Winner of the 4th Gutenberg Award, Mahendrabhai Patel, spoke about his 40 years of professional experience in Font map and Signage Design. Mahendra Patel is a retired senior faculty member from the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, India.

As he began the session, he narrated an instance where he was asked to deliver a design that would look ?nternational To this, Mahendrabhai refused and said, ?ince this is a design for India, it should fulfill the needs of the Indian audience, but what I can assure you is ?nternational quality rather than ?nternational Style It is this that justifies his design philosophy that, Design should not just be seen, but the problem should be solved.

One of his initial commercial projects, in 1979, was Type Design as well as Exhibition Design for a theme pavilion, Delhi. In the same year, he also started work for the International Airport Authority of India on Type Design in Devnagari, Bengali and Tamil. After that came the project of designing the logotype for State Bank of India (SBI), in Devnagari, Bengali and English. Through experiments, he proved that while designing the same logotype in another Indian language/script, the text should be translated in the respective language and not transliterated. His impeccable work on the logotype of SBI, in all languages demonstrates that a perfect logo is the one where we can see visual similarity in the original logo and the other language logos, with respect to colour, structure and also balance and rhythm in the various scripts used, making them a family inspite of their differences. The SBI logo was created in, Assamese, Bengali, English, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.

He then spoke about his experiences during the signage development project for Ahmedabad city that was done in 1998. While discussing it, he mentioned his visit to Switzerland and the influence that western design had on him. But he soon realized that such design would not be feasible in India and that here, it was necessary to begin from scratch. In the year 2000, he also worked on type design and signage system for Tirupati Temple City in Telugu, Devnagari, Kannada and Tamil. In the following year he worked on matching Hindi and English signage designs for the campus of the NID. While executing this project, one of the problems which he faced as a designer was that it was a compulsory for Hindi to appear before English, and in the same point size on any signage. However, 90 percent of the students on campus, were more comfortable with English. To solve this problem, he used a light font for Hindi and a bold one for English, making it convenient for the audience. In 2004, he also did Type Design and Signage Design for Kumbh Mela and Ujjain City.

After describing the signage design projects, Mahendrabhai then spoke about the project on Map design for Ahmedabad city that he began in 1972. Once again, his experience and interest in the Map Design of Basel, Switzerland, helped in the task. But this project proved to be much more than what it seemed at the first instance. By referring to the map provided by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, he did create an easy to read and user-friendly map, but what he discovered later was shocking. Although the roads were indicated on the map, in reality some of them just did not exist! To find a solution to this problem, he physically rode his scooter through all the lanes of Ahmedabad and actually took the required measurements, to formulate the new map. Inspite of doing this project against no remuneration whatsoever, he took care of immense details. He designed the map in such a way that he grid linears of the location map would go on to become the fold lines of the new map design. Although the new map looked much more spacious than the earlier, it had 80% more information. Simply Brilliant! 10 years later, the same map was made again, but such maps cannot be reprinted after such a long duration gap because references of locations change to a large extent. It needs to be completely remade. And therefore, he once again, took up the task and made a new map.

With such amount of hard work and dedication, he also made maps for Gujarat, Hyderabad, Ministry of Irrigation (1982), Geology map of Gujarat and Heritage Walk. He also worked on Type Design for Stencil writing in Devnagari Script for ISI, India (1974), Gujarati script type design for Gujarati Type Foundry, Bombay (1981), Kannada script type design for Deccan Herald Publishing House, Bangalore (1981) and many others.

From all this it can be inferred that in India, it is not enough to just design maps, signage systems, logotypes etc. It is equally important to educate the client about these aspects because most people only know that maps exist, but often, do not realize that there is someone who actually ?esignsit.

Mahendrabhai handled all this plethora of work, along with maintaining his teaching profession alongside. From his talk, one can distinctly feel his passion about teaching. He also worked on many educational Type Design projects. He insisted to his students that type should be made by hand and the geometrical shapes must fit in the hands and minds of the designer so much so that his own hands should become geometric reference guidelines for working.

Eliminating the original reed pen writing of Devnagari, he gave birth to Linear Devnagari in 1972. He also designed fonts in Bengali and Tamil and explained the difference between Aesthetic Correction and Mathematical Correction. ?esthetic is not only beauty being the philosophy of Globalization today, Mahendrabhai opined, that ?lobalizationitself is just a mindset and nothing more! Our salutations to this Designer and teacher at heart!

Typography Day 2013

Typography Day will be organized for the sixth time in 2013 at the Department of Design (DoD) at the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IIT Guwahati) in collaboration with the Industrial Design Centre (IDC) at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT Bombay) with support from India Design Association (InDeAs) and Aksharaya.

The theme for this year’s event is ‘Display Typography’.

The event will feature a day of workshops on Typography and Calligraphy followed by two days of conference dedicated to display typography. The international conference which will be devoted to addressing issues faced by type designers, type users and type educators. The conference includes presentations of invited keynote speakers, eminent academicians, blind juried papers, industry professionals, research scholars and students. The event will also host an exhibition of selected posters and typographic works of students and faculty members from Design Institutes in India.

The event is planned over three days:
Day 1: Workshops on Typography + Meet on ‘Research in Typography’
Day 2-3 : Conference focusing on ‘Display Typography’

Aksharaya is an ode to Indian letterforms by a group of letter conscious people. It is an evergrowing organization of designers, educators, researchers and students, who are driven by a passion for Indian scripts, calligraphy and typography. Read More