For the average person, the understanding of fonts is often limited to a choice between Times New Roman and Arial. But step into a design environment and fonts assume great importance. After all, is it possible to think of Google without its colourful typeface or imagine Coca Cola minus the cursive lettering on its logo?
Satya Rajpurohit understands the intricacies of well-designed typography like few others. The Ahmedabad resident began working with typefaces in 2009, when he founded the Indian Type Foundry. His agenda was simple: make fonts, preferably Indian ones.
Today, with a clientele that includes Apple, Samsung and Star TV, the Indian Type Foundry is redefining typography in Indian languages.
Satya Rajpurohit at work
Satya did not start out with the intention of becoming a typeface expert. Hailing from Nagaur, a town in Rajasthan, his parents hoped he would become a doctor. After a few failed attempts at clearing the exams, he began applying to art colleges and was finally accepted at the prestigious National Institute of Design (NID).
“I was actually never interested in typography. I was more inclined towards motion graphics,” he says. It wasn’t until he found an internship in Linotype, a renowned type foundry in Germany, that Satya considered it professionally. His internship led to a stint at Dalton Maag, London, next year; around this time he met Peter Bilak, a type designer from Netherlands.
You might also like: This Made-In-India 3D Printer Can Revolutionize the Affordable Tech Space in India!
“Peter’s company in Netherlands made Latin fonts, but needed someone for the Indian fonts,” Satya says. He had begun to develop his own Devanagari fonts by then, and in 2009, he set up Indian Type Foundry with Peter as business partner. It turned out to be a great decision.
He says, “In 2010, Star India underwent a major overhaul and used some of our fonts. In 2011, we made fonts for Sony. I think one reason we found great clients soon was the fact that there were no other design-oriented type foundries like us.”
In 2014, two years after Peter had left the company, the big call arrived. Apple placed a request to license two ITF fonts. The project took a few months, but it was a landmark moment for the company.
Cut to 2017, the Indian Type Foundry now boasts a repertoire of over 200 fonts, in various Indian and Latin languages.
“We have 130 retail fonts, and about another 100 custom fonts or so,” Satya says. The retail fonts are available for sale online and are open for anyone to purchase. The custom brands are created on special request by clients — these include the designs Satya and his team have for brands like Star, Sony and Samsung, among others.
Most of the retail fonts are created by ITF’s roster of designers, from all parts of the world. Satya keeps an eye out for interesting designs and collaborates with them to add new fonts to the web store. What sets the foundry truly apart though aren’t its Latin fonts but rather those in Indian languages, created in-house at Ahmedabad.
“In comparison to Latin scripts, complexity and diversity sets Indian scripts apart,” he says. “A single Latin script can cover pan-European languages. In India, we have many more languages.” Creating Indian typefaces requires time, attention to detail, understanding of diverse languages and often even additional programming to convert the letters and matras into user-friendly fonts. Little wonder then that so few companies even take up the task.
Before ITF came into being, the only major font creators in India were engineers who made it for software development, says Satya. His enterprise thus offered a new perspective to fonts in the country — here, design came first and for good reason.
For the team of designers at ITF led by Satya, fonts are the visual equivalent to human voices.
“When I speak, I have a voice. A font is a visual tone,” he says. A font can make an expression, and using the wrong font can ruin the message. At ITF, the emphasis on design is not simply aesthetic, it’s utilitarian. “One spends so much time reading content in books and computers. Reading should be a comfortable experience,” Satya says, ruing the fact that India hasn’t quite woken up to the possibilities of typography yet.
“People don’t see the investment value in fonts, even magazines and newspapers,” he says. When I speak to clients, I always try to educate them on how fonts can affect their branding and business.”
ITF is now currently working for brands like Amazon and expanding their inventory of retail fonts. With their collection of Latin fonts also doing well, Satya also plans to expand in that area. His hope now is that the value of good design is on its way to be recognised among brands and businesses in India as well.