Meet IN-D Typeface Designer, Tanya George

Meet Tanya George – the typeface designer behind IN-D’s first logo – Kolaba Display. Tanya George, who has a Masters in Type Face Design and specializes in Indian Typefaces, is a Typographer and a Type Designer from Mumbai, India.

 Image: Tanya at her Typewalk in Mumbai


S : What do you do as a Typographer/Type Designer?

T : As a Typographer I use fonts to design things - brochures, magazines, posters etc. As a Type designer - I design fonts Kolaba being one of them. I am a consultant in the field of Typography. I also conduct Typewalks around Mumbai – and this came from walking around Mumbai, looking at letter forms and making sense of them.

S : When did your love for Typography begin?

T : Possibly from the margins of my notebooks in school. The last page of every notebook of mine would be expressively lettered with lyrics of songs – and this excited me. I would play around with letterforms to convey the emotion of the song through them.

In fact, the logo that I use today is something that I drew in the margins of my notebook somewhere around the 7th Standard. It was a very bare skeleton but now it’s refined. I use these drawings to track my own design evolution – as the logo changed from school to college and even now.

S : Where does your creative inspiration come from?

T : I think a lot about the tool that is used and the shape it creates – the tool as a physical object such as a pen or nib that you use to write, or a brush that can create a different kind of letter form. Writing the letter ‘a’ with multiple tools will be recognised as ‘a’ but the flesh around the skeleton will change depending on the tool. While I use a computer to design my typefaces, I like to think about the shapes these tools create and the differences between typography on paper and on screen.

S : In your opinion, what makes for a great typeface?

T : It’s use. I think every typeface is designed with a purpose in mind and when it is not used for the intended purpose it falls short. For me, the user and end use make the typeface. So when people hate on Comic Sans - while I wouldn’t say I’m Team Comic Sans, I think it has been used in incorrectly in the wrong places and people are harsh about it. Vice Versa when people are say “I love Helvetica”, I’m tired of that too, because it is just a very easy decision at any given point in time. I want people to use typefaces for their intended purposes so that they can be used to the best of their potential.

S : What is your favourite part about designing type? Do you also have a least favourite part?

T: My favourite part of designing type is probably the initial bit where I’ve had this idea and I’m trying to figure out the logic behind it. That can happen in a very short period of time - and it's me very charged up and excited about the process. My least favourite part is naming a typeface.

S: How do you name your typefaces? How did Kolaba happen?

T: They come from a lot of struggle, reading up a lot of things and drawing parallels. I like puns – and all of these things inform the naming. Kolaba happened because I was in the UK and I was designing this typeface for my Masters project. I used to live in Colaba and  I wanted to tie it back to Bombay, so Kolaba seemed like a nice fit.

But the initial name for Kolaba was actually curry “K-A-R-I” - because that was the name of a favourite character of mine in a book - Kari by Amrita Patil – it is a graphic novel set in Bombay itself - and also because it sounded like curry which is kind of Indian but also not - so there were all these layers to it -  and I thought I was being very clever about it, until I found out there was already a typeface named Kari with the K-A-R-I spelling that I wanted - and that is not ideal because you usually want unique names for your typeface. So then I had to change it to Kolaba - but I’m happy with Kolaba - it feels like Kolaba.

S : Do you have any favourite glyphs that you like to design?

T : The lowercase ‘g’ for sure (which is why that looks so cool – pointing to the G in Kolaba and) also the lower case ‘f’.

Image: 'g' in Tanya's font Kolaba Display

S : Serif or Sans Serif?

T : I prefer a Serif - purely because Sans Serif are a lot harder than they look  to draw - especially the ones that are mono linear that look really that they have no thick or thin parts and are the same - those are a nightmare to draw and maintain that same uniform thickness throughout – so I guess I’m team Serif.

S : Is there any new type design project that you are working on right now and excited about?

I’m working on really cool variable font project that I’m very excited about. Variable fonts are a new technology in which one font has multiple fonts in it. One possibility is to have with a slider built into the font to change the language of the font. I’ve been working on it with Indian fonts because a lot of them have clear parallels - like there is ka in Hindi, ka in Marathi,  ka in Gujrathi, ka in Malyalam, ka in Odiya – and that ka sound is the same in each language. - So my test font currently has just the letter ka and you can take the slider and move it across nine scripts - so that has me really excited - but that is going very slow because I have actual projects that pay the bills - and this is on the side.

 Post: A sneak peak into Tanya's project on her Instagram

S : What does the freedom of working independently mean to you?

T : Oh my god - It is amazing, and also terrible all at the same time! I don’t think I can go back to working for someone. I enjoy the flexibility I have, I enjoy the ability to take the kind of projects I want to work on. I don’t have anybody to support - which makes this possible and I get to be my own boss and I can’t give myself any excuses so that dynamic works very well. There is a lot of discipline involved as well - I can’t just because I feel like not do something. I’m the boss and I hold myself accountable. But I can also breathe and be kind to myself in the same space. It’s been about 6 years since the last time I got a salary. For 6 years now, I’ve been working independently.

For me to be able to have my own voice - and work on the projects that I want to do also means that you get to put I get to put my voice into all of them. I tend to take ownership of those things a lot more - I get to do that wholeheartedly because they are my projects - I want this to look a certain way and feel a certain way - and this is true for type design for sure, and for branding, and for teaching as well.


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