What’s Your Type?https://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/whats-your-type/

What’s Your Type?

Winning the Gold Design Lion at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2012 proves that non-linear thinking can take you places.

Winning the Gold Design Lion at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2012 proves that non-linear thinking can take you places.

Winning the Gold Design Lion at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2012 proves that non-linear thinking can take you places. The Hinglish Project that won the award last month,in the Brand and Identity Experience entry reinforces how typography plays a role in brand building.

Designed for the Ministry of Tourism’s Incredible India campaign,the proposal was developed by Shirin Johari,associate creative director,DDB Mudra. Through this unique font design,you can tell the phonetic sound of a Hindi character by looking at the corresponding Roman letter superimposed on it. Hindi is written in the Devanagri script,which has many more characters than the English alphabet. This font,then,cannot teach you how to read words as they are spelt in Hindi,but its aim is to demystify individual letters in its script and make India more approachable. Despite the superficial distinctiveness of English and Hindi,the two borrow from the same phonetic pool — they both belong to the Indo-European group of languages. This font design playfully highlights these commonalities.

Developing a hybrid typeface wasn’t easy. For Johari,it required learning the process of typography,speaking to linguists and getting her font right. “This taught me a lot. I had to overcome the jargon of grids and ‘x’ heights,ascenders and descenders. Hanif Kureshi,typographer and ex-colleague helped me understand these type concepts,” says Johari. For the entire Hinglish Project package,Johari credits the film maker who helped make the video and webdevelopers who helped code the website and ofcourse the agency heads and the CEOs of DDB Mudra.

Advertising

The interactive website allows visitors to type messages in “Hinglish” and the font is available for free download on the Hinglish Project website,so tourists can use them as word-maps when they travel. There are quick-flick books made for easy reference,and merchandise too.

But the question is,“will it work?”.

“It’s a cool,fun idea,most certainly,but may not be very practical when you’re trying to weave sentences together. It looks good on T shirts and mugs but can’t evolve into a language,” says Sujata Keshavan of Ray + Keshavan. “The reason is that Hindi is a phonetic language while English is not. So if you want to,for instance,say ‘enough’ in English,it cannot be replicated by writing it in Devanagari in the same way. But for the Incredible India campaign,it’s a great way to create brand identity,” says Keshavan.

The noise,languages and culture in India can be quite an information overload for the 5.7 million tourists who plan to visit India this year. The tourism ministry has been thinking of ideas to make India more approachable and the Hinglish Project might be an option. The project proposal still needs to be formally presented to us,until which it will not get on the road. “The agency did send us the proposal and it’s a bright idea but until we speak to our media experts,and consult others on board,we cannot finalise this,” says Anant Kumar,joint secretary,Ministry of Tourism.

Typefaces are used as strategic communicative devices to aid brand identity. Going by the science that we don’t actually read sentences but conceive images of words,such a project proves design dialect can go a long way in problem-solving. “Getting the typography right is getting half the design done,” says V Sunil,executive creative director,Wieden + Kennedy (W +K) Delhi. “In advertising,it’s about designing an experience. Typefaces quite often go unnoticed. When we planned the Indigo campaign,we wanted to tell the customer,‘you are travelling on a cheap ticket,but your experience isn’t.’ So we developed a design language where the typography played a major role. A single font (Bauhaus) was used in every branding platform — from the baggage tags to the print ads,fleet buses to ramps. Today,its impact has given the airline an identity that signifies style,elegance and honesty,” he says.

The tone and feel of a message is quite often conveyed through a typeface. “Typefaces are like people,” says Hanif Kureshi,typographer,with W+ K Delhi’s creative team. “For instance,Helvetica is commonly used as a font that means business,yet can go anywhere. You can take it to any party and it will fit in. The New York Underground is a classic example. Another example is The Economist. They adopted a single font and today when you see the red box with the lettering you know instantly it belongs to the newspaper.”

Typography has two parts: font design (such as Times,Verdana,Helvetica,ComicSans) and applied typography (the way it’s used,its size,the space you give lettering,the way layouts are finally done). “I tell my clients,if your product can be recognised without the logo,your advertisement has succeeded,” says Keshavan. “Fonts are used to convey feelings as well. So,a horror film,for instance,will play with fonts differently,from a fine dining restaurant.”

If typography is all about communication,why doesn’t it show in our signage,advertisements,newspapers or even posters? “We’re not a largely literate population. For most people,pictures have held the narratives for the longest time. Even in advertisements,clients prefer picture-led boards to reach out to a larger audience,” says Keshavan.

Advertising

Typography down the ages has led us to buy products (think Coca Cola),given us the comfort of memory (Amul),been a badge of identity and a sense of “my brand” ownership with products. They have been the ‘coup de maître’ in a well-designed advertisement. “The Incredible !ndia campaign saw a simple type design,from an old fashion punctuation to a contemporary design language. The ‘!’ has become a very strong iconic and identifiable look for India globally,” says Sunil,who spearheaded the design team for the campaign in the initial years.

It’s no secret that it will take us more than base creativity to win the D & AD’s Yellow Pencil (a premier global award that promotes excellence in advertising),but the Hinglish Project is a celebration of all things Indian — flexible,fun and multilayered.

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