Designing typefaces

By 25 Apr 2018

Shiva Nallaperumal is a graphic designer, type designer and illustrator. He has been awarded by Forbes for 30 under 30. His practice has focused on identity systems, publication and exhibition design, custom typefaces and interactive design for a wide range of international clients. He graduated from DJAD, Coimbatore, and then did MFA in graphic design from the Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, USA

Difference between graphic and typeface design 
We do a lot of graphic designs, such as logos. We also design a lot of typefaces for various brands. The power of typeface is subliminal and most of the iconic brands have their own custom fonts. 
 
Graphic design and typeface design processes differ greatly. In graphic design, there is very low sense of authorship. A company comes to me to design a logo and I design it, but I cannot have any authorship over it. It’s a service field where we cannot work without a brief or constraints.
 
In typeface design, we have a level of authorship. For example, when a newspaper comes to me and wants me to design a font, making it distinct and different from other newspapers, and when I design it, it would be my design and I will have authorship over it. We retain the authorship in terms of how the fonts will look like. In most cases, I can sell the fonts later. I can sell a particular font to a newspaper for a period of five years, during which it can establish its brand identity. Post the period, I will regain my complete authorship over the font and sell it to others. 
 
Typefaces and scripts
A typeface is a tool in a file format which enables you to type in a language. We need to distinguish between a script and a typeface. A script is a writing system where a language is used in writing. Devanagari is a script and Hindi, Marathi and Sanskrit are three different languages that use this script. In this way, Indian typography is a whole different ball game when compared to the world typography.
 
Most of the world’s languages use Latin scripts. However, Indian typography and design is more phonetic and hence more complicated. Each Indian script is peculiar and it’s only in the past ten years that we have worked on an open typeface design. We are currently trying to design a typeface which has all these scripts and visually balance each other.
 
Typography as a branding tool
Today, brands are becoming more conscious. They want their branding to be uniform across all manuscripts. 
 
Also, they don’t want the branding logo in other languages to look different from its English counterpart. So yes, typography can be a great branding tool and has been its core for a century. For example, if you consider the Amul logo, the same gothic fonts were used for other regional languages too. As a result, the visual language of the brand can be translated into different language communities.
 
Looking ahead
It’s a very exciting time to be a designer in India. With globalisation, the design identity of the country had gotten lost. However, today, the current generation is waking up to the idea of Indian identity.
 

 
These interviews appeared on Audiogyan, an Indian podcast hosted by Kedar Nimkar. So far, the podcast has 64 posts and more than 65,000 listens. You can listen to the full version of the podcast at audiogyan.com

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