Typecraft: Using Font Design as a Means to Create a Difference
Launched in 2012, The Typecraft Initiative, develops a range of display typefaces based on the rich crafts and tribal arts of India. The primary goal of this foundry is to help provide craftspeople to sustain their livelihood through the creation and sale of the typefaces.
Craftspeople need to have design skills.
A vital aspect of our mission is to use the workshops with craftspeople to instil design methodologies in them, and to allow for free-thinking, failure and the ability of independent thought in craftspeople, who in India are usually relegated to implementors and not treated on par with designers. We envisage a world where craftspeople will also be designers.
Letters are alien to the everyday world of artisans who make their crafts based on 'traditional' motifs (that are usually based on plants and animals). Giving them something out of context challenges them to really understand what sorts of new forms their craft can take. For instance, some of the embroidery craftswomen we work with, tell us that they are usually given the designs to make, and so they end up making but not applying their minds to think of new forms and possibilities of their craft.
A font is a tool and a starting point for more creation by anyone, anywhere in the world. Crafts in India has always been seen as an end, not as a beginning or a starting point, a catalyst for more creation. We endeavour to change this.
The typefaces are meant to inspire, create awareness and generate further interest in the art, history, context, and life of the people and the communities we work with. The typefaces are not only an archive of the IPR of communities that are on the brink of merging with mainstream society, but they are meant to be a celebration of their rich artistic heritage that — through the creation of a digital typeface — has been converted to a contemporary idiom.
Thus far, we have worked in numerous letterforms and typeface from a diverse range of crafts — each of which are based in a specific region (see map), use a certain material and work in a specific process, and made by different groups of artisans.
We hope designers, artists from across the globe would engage with and develop new forms of expressions through the medium of typography and graphic design that contribute to continue making this a living craft. Contributions can not only be made through the work created but also by the purchase of the typeface, which will enable us to in some small way, help sustain these crafts and tribal arts and the people who make them.
Andreu Balius, Barcelona
Sol Matas, Berlin
Ishan Khosla, Delhi