Typocentric: Bazaar

March 12, 2011

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 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.
Related posts:
Typocentric Bazaar on Flickr
Overlap: Intersection of Desi & Diasporic
Viva Vernacular

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Vineeta March 16, 2011 at 1:41 AM

OMG OMG. What fun!!! I have to write about this on my blog – people must know. Crazy fun fantastic work.

yamini March 16, 2011 at 9:40 AM

LOVE love LovE this!!!!! the pics and creativity here are amazing. damn.

Avantika Sharma March 19, 2011 at 6:57 AM

The pixel look using the bindis is extremely exciting and unique + full of flavor… I love how you shot it!!

Erin McLaughlin March 23, 2011 at 5:52 AM

a m a z i n g

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