July 1, 2013

Typography : Pooja Saxena

By Preksha Sharma

After working for a year with Apple’s font’s team, Pooja Saxena is now 4-5 months into her sabbatical. Along with various projects and hobbies she is dabbling with, you might also come across her cooking blog, diligently updated every week. “The cooking blog probably just takes a day or more out of my entire week,” she ponders before continuing, “I think it has sort of become a part time job.”

She discovered her liking for graphic design while studying communication design at National Institute of Fashion Technology, Delhi. She could quickly narrow it down to her love for typography. “NIFT did not have a very strong focus on typography but it did not matter because in my other assignments like visual merchandising and photography, I tried to bring lettering if I could.  Also after NIFT, I did a couple of self-initiated typography projects,” says Saxena. She has also worked a little on a textile-typography project, Sangam at Ishan Khosla Designs. And then, it is no surprise that she earned an MA in typeface design at University of Reading and was also awarded the Monotype Imaging Studentship in 2011.

Kyoorius had a chat with her about her experiences, observations and even Helvetica, about which Saxena says “It has a creative history but the obsession with which people use it, everywhere, is a little disturbing.”



Working with Apple is a dream job for millions. What were the reasons for you to leave the job and come back to India?

I think it is a good time to come back to India. Right now India is the place where there is so much happening. People are getting introduced to and are exploring design.  I find India more exciting, challenging and I think it is much more fun. Though I am still working as a consultant for Apple and work for them remotely.

Would you advocate for free and open sources of art and/or design?

I have put a thought into this but I am not sure if I have entirely made up my mind. What I believe is that if someone is working, they should be paid for it but the product can be for free. For instance, right now when I am working on a free and open source font, I am getting paid to work on it but the product itself is free. So I think it’s not so much about whether the type should be a paid one or not but whether the person who is designing it is being adequately paid for their work. Though we all engage into pro bono work once in a while, but in general if someone is doing work, they should be paid even if the user is not paying for it.


Do you think that Indian scripts and Indian publications need an immediate ‘type’ attention?

Well, most probably they do. If you compare the quality of the publications in general, just in terms of how they are produced and how they are designed, it is low. That’s also because if as a graphic designer you want to design a brochure in Hindi, as opposed to the one you would design in English, the tools to be able to do that are not up to the mark. Like for Hindi, the options of fonts and styles are limited and it is a complete headache to type everything out. And because the tools are so hard, it is only obvious that the final product doesn’t end up to be as polished as it could. Even while studying graphic design in India no matter which institute, there might be less focus on Indian types and even if there is, it is fairly cursory. No one actually teaches you how typography might function in Indian scripts. So even the designers who have to design in Indian scripts, no matter how good, might be doing it for the first or the second time.


Are Indian scripts complicated and is that one of the playing reasons?

I think there is a difference between what is complicated and what is complex. Specially for people who have used a Latin based script all their life,I can imagine the Indian Scripts can look very complicated. But while the scripts might be complex, it comes naturally to millions who are used to it. So, it is also because for an outsider, it is new and hence seems complicated. And I think even if they are complex, so what? We would not stop using English because some spellings are really complicated.  We all write in a certain way and all we can do is to respect them and make it work better.

Secondly, because Latin and English are so prevalent everywhere, even the way tools and software are designed,  it is all aligned to make Latin work. And on top of that system, we try to make it work for other scripts, most of which are nothing like Latin. Take an example of any Indian or Arabic script, they are so different that for any type, the process that they go through are not necessarily as it would be for Latin.

Delhi Typerventions group had put up a Devanagari-Bharati Braille installation at a blind’s school, to which you made a contribution. How important are type designs for a visually challenged or a blind person?

If you think typography as a way of organizing information, then it would be very important for some one who is visually impaired. Braille has very clear rules about how to show a heading or a paragraph break. Like they would put something prior to a word to symbolize that it is a heading; so in that sense, typography or type setting is really important for organizing information.

I really don’t think (and nor that I can say this with 100% certainty) that a visually impaired person would use and perceive typography in the same way as a sighted person in terms of making it look prettier. For them, it is about making it functional, so that someone can pass through the text and find the right things at the right place. It is more about translating the language accurately.

Braille Devanagri


Read more about Saxena’s work on her blog. Follow her on twitter @anexasajoop

Kyoorius is a bi-monthly print magazine on visual communications. Subscribe here. For buying a single copy (or any of the previous issues), write to us at sales@kyoorius.com.  You can order the issue from Tadpole, get the digital copy from Magzter and also buy it from bookstores near you. For any feedback on the magazine or to submit your work, do drop in a mail to us at editor@kyoorius.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

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