[Reader-list] TYPOCITY: examinig typographic forms in a city

Vishal Rawlley ustadv at hotmail.com
Wed Dec 25 16:11:39 IST 2002


Cities are littered with letters: typographic forms on posters, billboards, 
signboards, shop signs, street signs, name plates, number plates, bus 
timetables, train graffiti etc. cover the city communicating urgently, 
announcing pompously, informing mundanely, declaring hopelessly…

The typographic styles employed in these communications convey beyond the 
literal meaning of the texts, revealing the traditions and aspirations of 
the culture they emerge from. The city of Bombay has a diverse range of 
signage styles and typographic forms arising from its varied social and 
cultural fabric. The influences of the film industry, the demands of 
commerce, the changes in political power etc, are all constantly reflected 
in the signage and typographic styles employed in various communication 
media around the city.

TYPOCITY is a project that aims to document and analyze interesting and rare 
instances of typography throughout the city of Bombay from the point of view 
of graphic design, production technique and social significance. The scope 
of research will include rare and interesting forms of typographic display 
such as painted film posters, hand painted restaurant menu boards, hand 
crafted shop signs, calligraphic taxi number plates, archaic electronic 
displays etc. This research shall be sorted, annotated and archived. The 
best of these lettering styles will be typographically examined and 
converted into digital fonts (true type fonts).

In recent years, the influx of globalization has led to a rapid replacement 
of many locally evolved styles of signage in Bombay. Backlit vinyl boards, 
digital printouts and stickers are replacing hand painted posters, 
signboards and graffiti. However, some old forms still survive and it is 
important that they be urgently documented. There are still a handful of 
film poster painters, the shops on Muhammad Ali road still retain the hand 
crafted signboards, some old textile mills still have the old embossed 
lettering above the arched gateway...

The team of Kurnal Rawat and Vishal Rawlley will combine their 
specializations in typography and communication media respectively, in the 
execution of this project. Scouting the city, area by area, they shall 
photograph all interesting and rare typographic instances. These typographic 
forms shall be contextually sorted and archived under cross-linked 
categories such as language, period, style, technique, medium, area etc.  
The entire catalogue that thus emerges shall be archived on a website and 
made freely accessible. The best of these lettering styles shall be 
typographically examined and using appropriate computer software converted 
into true type fonts with the possibility to download these from the project 

This exercise will help in studying the social fabric of Bombay form a 
typographic lens. The documentation of this aspect of the visual culture of 
the city will also help in tracing the cultural history of the city. The 
reintroduction of vernacular styles in a digital form will help in 
preserving the cultural link between contemporary graphic-design with the 
traditional design practices.


Research Work
We shall scout the entire city, photographing unique, rare and interesting 
typefaces. We shall also visit the workshops and meet the craftsmen involved 
in the production of these type forms as part of our research.

Cataloguing and Archiving
The research material will be sorted according to various contextual 
categories such as language, period, style, technique, medium, area etc and 
archived on a website.

Creating True Type Fonts
We shall make a typographic study of the ten most interesting typefaces 
emerging from the research. Examining the available alphabets and numbers of 
the particular font, the entire range of alphabets and numbers of the 
typeface shall be evolved. This will then be converted into a true type font 
using appropriate computer software. These fonts will also be made available 
for download from the project website.

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