Matra Type Draws Ka
In the last few years, several Devanagari typefaces have been designed to match sans-serif Latin designs (one of them mine). While happy about the growing number of typefaces available, it is easy to wonder if there is really that much variety. When a friend asked me a couple of years ago, why most Devanagari typefaces look so boring, I embarked on a year-long exercise to draw the letter “ka” in a different style every week.
Most weeks, I set myself a brief. The first ka above was neon-inspired, and it was drawn when I was at the height of preparation for my Paharganj Type Walk and reading a great deal about neon signs. The brief for the second one was to draw something burly and brawny. For the last one, I wanted to capture the spirit of science fiction.
Some designs were inspired by interesting styles seen on street lettering. For instance, the incomplete, semi-circular counters in the sign for Tikamdas Menswear in Mumbai, made for charming Devanagari letters.
Yet another source of ideas was old decorative Latin designs, such as Alex Stocker’s design La Jeunesse (1954), which I adapted to Devanagari.
Finally, I enjoyed playing with abstraction, and pushing the letter to its limits of recognition.
The project was a tremendous exercise in discipline. I like to believe that I am pretty disciplined having worked from home for over five years now. But discipline was not what it was only about. Keeping the ideas flowing week after week was a challenge, as was being prepared for planned and unplanned interruptions to life.
Towards the end of the year, I thought about creating myself a tote bag with all the different letters I had drawn — a reminder of a self-initiated project completed! The idea of the tote bag struck a chord with others. And so, with the help of, a small batch of bags were screen-printed in Jaipur. !