The New Wave of Indian Type

As mobile access grows and more people around the world start using the internet it’s also necessary to elevate the quality and range of digital typefaces available in different writing systems. This challenge is especially striking in India, a country that recognizes 23 official languages.

Keeping pace with the subcontinent’s linguistic diversity is challenging enough in print, but the relatively small number of digital fonts available for Indic languages reveals a striking disparity. But the balance is beginning to shift as a cohort of Indian type designers develop new digital fonts, and release their designs with open source licenses.

Addressing regional needs

Focusing on the challenges particular to Indian typography and solving for them has led to the creation of digital fonts that typically pair the Latin script with a single Indic script. New fonts may also increase the variety and aesthetic complexity of digital typography in different scripts by drawing from calligraphic models.

Mukta: Designing a single font solution

With Mukta, Dalvi and his collaborators at the Ek Type collective approach India’s diverse typographic needs at a larger scale. The mission behind Mukta is to create a common visual grammar that works across all of India’s writing systems. So far, Mukta covers five of the most widely used scripts in India—Devanagari, Gujarati, Gurumukhi, Tamil, and Latin.

Mukta’s designers had to decide which letters in each script were amenable to different adjustments, such as expanding and creating space between strokes.

Using open source design to promote typographic diversity

Designing a font from scratch can be very time-consuming, but sharing access to the source code can help with the heavy lifting and ease the way for other designers. Imagine placing the lines and points that form the general outline of each letter. Much of the work is repetitive, but instead of starting from scratch, existing fonts with an open code base can serve as raw materials for other type designers to cut to the chase and produce original work.

This has been one of the motivations behind Ek Type offering their pan-Indian type projects Mukta and Baloo as open source projects. Anyone can download the source code for an open source font like Mukta from Github and ‘fork’ it into their own offshoot of the design.

Mukta provides a starting point for some of the most widely used Indic scripts, but any open source font (including the entire Google Fonts catalog) can be forked and reimagined as something new.

The enormous linguistic diversity of India is in many ways a microcosm of global disparities in type design. India might not be “larger than the world,” but its typographic dilemmas are essentially the same ones that designers confront any time they’re not using Latin-like alphabets. The solutions discovered and improved upon by Indian designers could very well apply the world over.

Via: Google Design