June 1, 2011

Virtual Visual Conservation: The Hand Painted Type project

I just read about the project, Hand Painted Type over here. It is a fantastic attempt to what amounts to be a dedicated conservation of India's visual identity, specifically Indian street painters' typography. The quirky, individual hand-lettered and painted typefaces form an unique visual language of their own, animating the banners and signboards with a particular energy. Each strives to outdo the other and functions as an effective marketing tool, refusing to be mousy and preferring to be loud and spotlighting themselves instead. It is not surprising given the fact that wandering through Indian street markets is nothing short of experiencing a visual assault and an eye-grabbing, brassy sign is the only way to garner the buyer's attention. In a bid to prevent these signs from becoming a vanished cultural species, The Hand Painted Type project has undertaken the task of ensuring that the multiple typefaces across India are documented and preserved.

As it happens, I too have taken pictures of the various typefaces that I have encountered in old Jodhpur, Rajasthan over the years, the signs having been pleasingly old-school. Here are a few images of a particularly striking signboard I spotted:

Incidentally, the sign proclaims in Hindi: Liberty Kashida Center, Kashida meaning embroidery. Apart from the visual aspects, it's also interesting to 'read' English in Hindi! However, say, if you were not conversant with the written Hindi script, would you have preferred that I not have translated it? Would you have merely been content on focusing upon the visuals?

Even the stairs are advertisement spaces; I will leave this one untranslated!

These pictures were taken four years ago. I would be curious to return to this part of old Jodhpur once more and see if this family of signboards still exists...

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