We relish the Challenge of making a typeface from our complex and deep material culture
Converting an analogue and physical object made by hand into a digital typeface is no easy task. It involves hours of planning and experimenting. Some crafts are even impossible to convert to letters and fonts.
Decoration is an essential form of expression in most ancient cultures. It signifies skill and workmanship and is viewed by many as tantamount to wealth and richness. More is more in the craft context. Hence, Indian crafts are highly intricate and ornamental.
However, type design is meant to be minimal to allow for legibility, clarity and flexibility. Less is more in the type design context. The more nodes in a letter, the more detailed and complex they are and the closer they are to the original handmade artwork. However this makes the font less usable. Conversely, the more simple and neutral the letters are, the fewer nodes it has making it more usable but also less unique and true to the original craft. This tension forms the critical aspect of Typecraft.
While the introduction of decoration into type is nothing new, its ornamentation is typically done for display typefaces, used at larger sizes such as in posters and titles of books. Typecraft has been created to maintain this balance between ornament and function and thus has been developed for the explicit purpose of a display typeface. As designers we are sensitive to the both the artistic and aesthetic considerations along with the practical realities essential to type design and usage.
Pl.9 The complexity of the Godna letter with its thousands of nodes made Font Development an unprecedented challenge as this was the first time such a typeface was ever being made.
We face several challenges when working in the field with craftspeople and tribal artists — such as traveling and living in rural areas, getting used to the local conditions and sometimes, linguistic challenges.
Working with these communities, which are in most instances illiterate and almost always haven't worked with type before, poses its own problems.
In each case, working with a new group of craftspeople or tribal artists means addressing different needs and challenges, such as explaining the rationale of the project to the community or the challenge of documenting an oral tradition that is open to interpretation.
There is also difficulty of working with crafts in different mediums that have their own limitations. Since we want the artisans themselves to initially render the letters from their own craft, for us to understand the underlying system of the craft form, this process can be challenging depending on how easily a craft can be rendered as well as the drawing skills of the artisans. For instance, it is relatively simpler to create a tattooed letter on paper than embroider it onto cloth.
While designing the typeface we face numerous challenges such as ensuring that the letters are legible and practical to use, but yet imbibe the sense of beauty, vitality and rawness found in the original crafts. There is also the difficulty of getting a fairly consistent set of letters, such that they all belong to a font family, and yet they maintaining a unique "handmade" quality. The digitization of the physical artworks by the artisan into a vector artwork is a major, time-intensive task involving hundreds of hours of work on the computer.