Online project highlights homegrown Indian street lettering

Andy Dewhurst

We’re used to seeing fonts like Times New Roman and Helvetica on our high streets, but on the streets of India, charming home-grown custom lettering is commonplace.

To give an example, typeface and graphic designer Pooja Saxena noticed a wooden sign advertising Bentex watches. The letter ‘B’ on it featured multiple curves, along with an eye shape in the middle. This fascinated her so much that she entered its design into the #36DaysOfType competition, which celebrates lettering by dedicating a day to each letter and numeral.

According to Saxena:

“Public lettering plays a huge role in how we experience our cities and neighbourhoods.”

She also talks about the large number of languages and scripts used in India, which has no universally spoken individual language. She also points to the diversity of materials and styles used for public lettering, with some being made from neon while others are hand painted. Signs can also be found in metal, wood, or tile, while some are even etched into stone.

India is also experiencing the shift towards the digital age, but Saxena, and other typographers around the world, are preserving the beauty of their regional scripts by translating them into digital typefaces. This means that in future, attractive new font families based on Indian street signs could make their way onto vinyl window signage and custom vehicle lettering.

Saxena’s collected photographs can be viewed on the India Street Lettering website, while her designs for the #36DaysOfType competition can be view on her Instagram page.

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