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Edible Branding Reaches Millions in India

lifebouy_1a

I continue to get amped when the works of my former design students collide with my favoured intersection of communication, culture and creativity. While speaking at TYPO SF last month in California, I was alerted to an appetising development which I had missed from earlier this year, by fellow speaker, Peter Bil’ak. Fedra Hindi, the typeface he collaborated on with my former student Satya Rajpurohit, was used on a campaign ingeniously printed on rotis (Indian flatbread served at most meals) which were dished out at the Kumbh Mela, – attended by 80 million Hindu pilgrims across 55 days. No, that is not a typo. India’s Kumbh Mela is the world’s largest congregation.

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Unilever approached Ogilvy in Mumbai to advertise its Lifebuoy soap at the Kumbh Mela. Young creative, Vipul Slvi, came up with an idea to promote the soap – and hygiene at large – at an opportune moment during this year’s epic gathering. Teaming up with 100 kitchens across the festival, rotis were branded with the message Lifebuoy se haath dhoye kya? “Have you washed your hands with Lifebouy today?” – providing a savvy and sustainable advertising avenue while creating a friendly nudge around effective hygiene behaviours in general.

Here’s the somewhat schmaltzy coverage clip from Ogilvy – though I’d say you had to be amongst the crowd to dig the real flavour of this innovative campaign.

Images via The Economic Times

Related posts:
Digitising Indian Ink
Typocentric: Bazaar
Hindi-Hybrid Font-Fusion

I continue to get amped when the works of my former design students collide with my favoured intersection of communication, culture and creativity. While speaking at TYPO SF last month in California, I was alerted to an appetising development which I had missed from earlier this year, by fellow speaker, Peter Bil'ak. Fedra Hindi, the [...]

Hindi-Hybrid Font-Fusion

Being a fan of both travel and typography, I was delighted to see the two artfully brought together in a campaign for Incredible !ndia via the Indian Ministry of Tourism. Who would have thought a government ministry would be dabbling in free fonts for foreigners? The Hinglish Project was masterminded by Shirin Johari of Mudra Communications – playfully showcasing an expertly crafted hybrid of Hindi’s Devanagari script and English’s Roman script, based on the phonetic sounds they share.
 

Welcome to India. To make our country a little more familiar to you we present The Hinglish Project… It aims to demystify individual letters and its script and make India more approachable. – The Hinglish Project website

 



The site goes on to showcase Hinglish Project merchandise in the form of booklets, maps, cushions, coasters, postcards t-shirts, bags, etc. Best of all you can play around with writing your own messages and even download the font for free.
 

I hit Shirin up for some randomly specific insights.

S P E C I F I C :

How did the Hinglish Project idea evolve?
I’d been toying with the idea of combining scripts from two different languages for a while and late last year I began putting this experiment in my mind to paper. I got into the challenge of pulling it off across the entire alphabet then having it perform as a functioning typeface. I was drawn to the idea that it could teach visitors something new while making Hindi seem less intimidating. I liked the idea that folks could customise their own messages which led on to the interactive nature of the project. And for me, it’s also a high if I can put a smile on someone’s face while they’re at it.

What was the most difficult part of making a hybrid typeface?
This was a huge learning process in typography for me. I had to get my head around devising a specific grid, an x-height, ascenders and descenders and all that typographic specific-ness. My former colleague, typographer Hanif Kureshi, helped me get on top of some key concepts. I was also cross-checking with linguistic specialists to maintain correct or very close corresponding phonetic sounds – so had to keep changing designs to suit their input. Despite the challenges, it was a rewarding process to go through the journey from my original doodles to a functioning font.
 
R A N D O M :

Any insight on influences from your childhood?
As a child I wanted to be a scientist and invent things that would change the world after hearing a list of patents by a famous scientist that my teacher read to us. That didn’t quite work out, so well – what stayed was the desire to create something new and helpful.

Given The Hinglish Project is for Incredible !ndia – have you got any must-do tips for visitors?


 
Related posts:
Overlap: Intersections of Desi & Diasporic
Digistising Indian Ink
 

Being a fan of both travel and typography, I was delighted to see the two artfully brought together in a campaign for Incredible !ndia via the Indian Ministry of Tourism. Who would have thought a government ministry would be dabbling in free fonts for foreigners? The Hinglish Project was masterminded by Shirin Johari of Mudra [...]

Horn Please: Embellishment Central

Bombay continues to provide me with spicy new discoveries on every visit and this last trip was no exception. I stumbled on Wadi Bunder, a dense residential slum area peppered with truck decorators who were painting, welding, riveting, hanging, carving – anything to sweeten the deal on humble cargo trucks.
 




Truck painting in action at the hand of Battu Varma, who has been using trucks as his canvas since he was 15 years old
 


Diamonds are a truck’s best friend
 

Trunk line door panels
 

Welding custom truck body fittings
 


Carved panels adorn various parts of trucks – both interior and exterior
 

Hanging items accentuate a truck’s movement while delighting the eye
 


Various painters in action at Wadi Bunder
 

Telling it like it is
 
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And if Indian truck decoration is your thing – check out my London-based, Indian-born buddy Kangan Arora,with her posts from further North.

Bombay continues to provide me with spicy new discoveries on every visit and this last trip was no exception. I stumbled on Wadi Bunder, a dense residential slum area peppered with truck decorators who were painting, welding, riveting, hanging, carving – anything to sweeten the deal on humble cargo trucks.   Truck painting in action [...]

Street-inspired Strong Suit


I’m heading off on my annual pilgrimage to the motherland next week, so was delighted to receive an Indo-centric gift ahead of my departure – in the form of a deck of cards featuring designs inspired by Indian truck art. The pack was designed by my local buddy Anton Hart who started typo-ventilating over Indian signage a few years back while working in Mumbai.

Award winning designer & creative director, Anton Hart and Simon Hayward, have joined forces to launch Blow Horn Design. They’re planning a series of witty and whimsical products inspired by Indian street art and playing up local humor. The cards are one of their first products to reach limited shelves – mainly at Simon’s boutique Goan resort Vivenda Dos Palhacos and also at Tuk Tuk in Margao, Sacha’s Shop in Panjim and Rangeela in Calangute.
 

Like me, Anton, has been drawn to Indian vehicular graphics which celebrate uniqueness and honour the local. He has skillfully devised a palette of typographic elements which will feature in their upcoming range. Meanwhile I’ve been the lucky recipient of some of his prototypes – and will depart for India shortly with his Takes Notes OK notebook & I Love Bombay t-shirt. While you’re waiting for these and more to hit the shelves – check out some images of Indian signage which keep us inspired.

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I'm heading off on my annual pilgrimage to the motherland next week, so was delighted to receive an Indo-centric gift ahead of my departure – in the form of a deck of cards featuring designs inspired by Indian truck art. The pack was designed by my local buddy Anton Hart who started typo-ventilating over Indian [...]

Raja Remixed

Earlier this year I stumbled on this skilled spot of street art, tucked away on a stair well in Haus Khaz Village complex in Delhi. On reflection I mused – not only was it undeniably hip – but also drew relevantly on the prolific costumed capers and adaptive character of it’s inspiration: the iconic Air India maharajah.
 



I was transported back to airline’s posters which I’d been in awe of as a child travelling to India. Was there any location where the maharajah didn’t feel at ease? Wasn’t he a great host, buddy, traveller – with elegant charm and worldly wit? A bit of digging round proved him to be the brainchild of in-house commercial director Bobby Kooka and illustrator Umesh Rao of JWT in 1946, way back when Air India was Tata Airlines. Initially their character was merely destined for an inflight memo pad, though he clearly had his sights on riding more than paper planes. Impressively the maharajah did not remain grounded as a static image as many brand front-figures of the day – but jetted zealously round the globe in dynamic and debonair style.
 

The maharajah still continues to make appearances – though he doesn’t seem to get up to quite his old high-flying hijinks, he’s not looking bad for 65! Great to see that at the hands of Delhi street artists, he still manages to show folks that he can spin it grand style.
 
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Earlier this year I stumbled on this skilled spot of street art, tucked away on a stair well in Haus Khaz Village complex in Delhi. On reflection I mused – not only was it undeniably hip – but also drew relevantly on the prolific costumed capers and adaptive character of it's inspiration: the iconic Air [...]

Divergent Symbol Norms

Foreign visitors to India are often startled by the prevalence of this symbol – featuring on temples to trucks, doorways to stairways, fabrics to food decoration and even electoral ballot papers. Many locals could enlighten them that the symbol is called svastika (स्वास्तिक). Some might add that it comes from the the Sanskrit word svasti – sv = well; asti = is – encompassing good fortune, luck and well-being. Others, noting a tourist’s repulsion, may offer that the symbol differs in rotation from the offending swastika by 45 degrees and mention that it’s local history predates Nazi Germany by over 5000 years.

It has been said that the svastika’s angled arms indicate that the path of our aspirations is seldom straight and takes unexpected turns. They also convey the indirect road to faith – in which intuition superceds intellect. Four dots are often included which symbolise North, South, East and West – or in Hindi: Uttar, Dakshin, Purab and Pachim. Reverence of the symbol is given by Hindus, Jains and Buddhists across the nation.

Travellers who pay attention to the widespread veneration for the svastika are likely to reassess their symbolic norms – and appreciate they’ve encountered a case of cross-cultural same-same-but-oh-so-very-different.
 


 
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  Related posts: Same, Same but Different Disrupting Typographic Transit Norms  

Disrupting Typographic Transit Norms

Less is More, set in unadorned typeface Helvetica (more for Helvetica fetishists)

We’re so used to global transport networks featuring unimbellished typography in their signage and way-finding systems. Fair enough given that commuters require information to be legible, especially at high-speed interchanges or at unfamiliar junctions where there maybe all manner of other distractions. Fonts in the context of transit tend to be of the less-is-more, non-decorative, minimalist variety.

Frutiger pops up on Swiss road signs, at London’s Heathrow airport, on the Dutch national railways, and more. Univers strikes signage on the Montreal Metro, San Francisco’s BART and the Frankfurt Airport. Helvetica graces the NYC Subway system, my former regular transits on Hong Kong’s MTR, the Madrid Metro and beyond. (Its unobstrusivenss promoted typographic creator and critic, Jonathan Hoefler, to quip on it’s elusiveness to being evaluated: “Its like being asked what you think about off-white paint?”) If you’re a transit-type nut – you can check out more wiki-liciousness yourself, while everyone else reads on.

“Dilli-Metro” hacked in typeface Shree 715 (thanks to local type-geek Ghate)

On my recent trip to Delhi I encountered more of the uniform minimalism associated with mass public transit signage. Though tracking down the typefaces used proved to be a much tougher journey. I started by consulting with my cluster of global type-recognition experts, who all drew frustrated and occasional blushing blanks. My obsessive typo-curiousity evetually led me to Mudra Max’s wayfinding consultant, Sanjeev Hajela, who had led the team which devised signage for the Delhi Metro. The Hindi is Shree 715. The English is Brunel (Positive). Again, if you’re type-obsessed, you can venture on to Brunel’s relative obscurity yet public prominence and leave everyone else to stay with my train of thought.
 

Finally getting to the point – what really sung out at me during my own stop-hopping Delhi Metro experience, in India’s crowded yet colorful capital, was this exuberent diversion from standardised norms. Guys – don’t you just feel like you’re missing out on the party?

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Less is More, set in unadorned typeface Helvetica (more for Helvetica fetishists) We're so used to global transport networks featuring unimbellished typography in their signage and way-finding systems. Fair enough given that commuters require information to be legible, especially at high-speed interchanges or at unfamiliar junctions where there maybe all manner of other distractions. Fonts [...]

Typocentric: Bazaar

Last month I had a blast hosting the Typocentric: Bazaar workshop at Delhi’s UnBox Festival. We had global players join local folk to construct typographic forms from objects commonly found in Indian markets – buttons, bindis, decorative mirrors, candles, textile embellishments, match-boxes and more. I had initially proposed the workshop to run over three days which somehow got condensed to three hours – but much fun emerged on this insane time frame. Having graphic designers joined by those with backgrounds in anthropology, education and finance led to a random-specific blend of capacities which kept everyone typo-ventilating throughout.
 

I got a particular kick out of working alongside my gifted former student and pixel-pro, Abishek Ghate, who experimented with constructing typographic forms out of various elements to devise the intense workshop format.
 

We started out by having small groups create Hindi words in Devanagari script out of bindis. For those of you who are in the dark, bindis are the red or coloured forehead markings worn by many South Asian women – often but not always signifying marriage.
 

Bram Pitoyo, Digital Strategist at Weiden + Kennedy, collaborated with others to form Usha (उषा) meaning the first ray of light from the rising sun.
 

Another group took a different path to create the same word. And that’s the arm of Kriti Monga from Tumeric Design – a typographic doyenne – who wears it on her sleeve. Some of you may recall her superb visual journal from Design Yatra which featured in Creative Review.
 

Workings + resolutions for Sakhi (सखी) – an endearing term for a girl, a friend, a confidante.
 

Babe (बेब) – phonetically from English and peppered through Hindi conversations when hotties are on the radar.
 

We then switched to a smorgasbord of elements from local bazaars. The pressure mounted and creativity escalated as teams raced against the clock to follow typographic guidelines while exploring the limits and opportunities that their designated objects presented.
 

Decorative mirrors, often used for textile ornamentation, were used to artfully form the word Chhavi (छवि) which means reflection or image.
 

A team working with matchboxes experimented with multiple approaches to celebrate the name of our hosts: The UnBox Festival.
 

Impressive collaboration from those who worked with coloured buttons to create the name of our host city: Dilli/Delhi (दिल्ली)
 

Decorative flourishes from a group working with gotas – pleated fabric embellishments used to adorn sarees and other traditional clothing.
 

And pyromania ensued to give justice to the word Lau (लौ) or flame, built with candles.

Ghate and I were joined in energising participants by Codesign founder and UnBox spearhead, Rajesh Dahiya – who was a former colleague of mine at India’s National Institute of Design, where he continues to teach typography as adjunct faculty. My Design Observer co-contributor and by now close conference-buddy, John Thackara, had to put up with our fervored racket from his more earnest workshop which took place a just few paces away – luckily I made up for it the next day by swinging us a table at the ever popular dining spot Gunpowder. With it’s scenic view, this was a great vantage point to reflect on the UnBox Festival – where I had also presented as Community Manager on OpenIDEO. It had indeed lived up to it’s promise to encompass work and play across contexts and mediums plus “rethink and stretch design practice through imagination, provocation and stimulation for those interested in social and cultural change.” While many of the conference sessions were focused on more worthy pursuits, we’d like to think that Typocentric: Bazaar ignited a hankering for the handmade, a love of the local, a craving for collaboration – all within the alluring hype of type.
 
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Last month I had a blast hosting the Typocentric: Bazaar workshop at Delhi's UnBox Festival. We had global players join local folk to construct typographic forms from objects commonly found in Indian markets – buttons, bindis, decorative mirrors, candles, textile embellishments, match-boxes and more. I had initially proposed the workshop to run over three days [...]

Bollywood Big Boss

Busy times as I throw myself across India on projects in Bangalore and Delhi – so a quick post more randomly orbital than usual. The good folk at Idiom Design in Bangalore just sent me this poster, featuring yours truly, which they remixed for an event during last week’s DREAM:IN Conclave. Although the summit was generally focused on more noble pursuits – socialising in the evenings was spiced up with various interventions to get participants interacting. If I ever had Bollywood aspirations these past years, working in and out of Mumbai, it seems like I’ve finally achieved them here. And given that I’m atop Ameer Haque, vice president of Ogilvy & Mather, Bangalore – perhaps I’ve made it in the Indian advertising world as well?!

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Busy times as I throw myself across India on projects in Bangalore and Delhi – so a quick post more randomly orbital than usual. The good folk at Idiom Design in Bangalore just sent me this poster, featuring yours truly, which they remixed for an event during last week's DREAM:IN Conclave. Although the summit was [...]

Designerly Desi

Pooja Saxena is an emerging communication designer based in New Delhi with a love for typographic form and an aligned fascination with language and linguistics. One to watch for her agility across forms and fonts.
 

Material explorations on Devanagari script
 

Electricals Ltd. is Pooja’s modular typeface based on a friend’s photo taken in Jaipur.

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Overlap: Intersection of Desi and Diasporic

Pooja Saxena is an emerging communication designer based in New Delhi with a love for typographic form and an aligned fascination with language and linguistics. One to watch for her agility across forms and fonts.   Material explorations on Devanagari script   Electricals Ltd. is Pooja's modular typeface based on a friend's photo taken in [...]