An Inquiry into the role of Typography in Multi-lingual Identity Systems

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The trick to implementing an identity system brilliantly is striking the perfect balance between consistency and flexibility. Without consistency, a brand is not recognizable; and unless there is …

The trick to implementing an identity system brilliantly is striking the perfect balance between consistency and flexibility. Without consistency, a brand is not recognizable; and unless there is flexibility, the brand will be mundane, and will fail to address its multiple audiences successfully in a variety of situations. This case-study attempts to chart how these two opposing forces work in tandem in the typography of multi-lingual identity systems.

Most identity systems of the past, and even present, have not been designed to accommodate more than one language typographically, especially languages using different scripts. When a brand wants to address its audience in a second language, it ends up using transliteration. This works well when the audience can read the language in which the system has been designed but fails miserably when they cannot.

Today, brands are expanding into new cultural zones where their survival is dependent on using a second language, and into regions where using the native language in their identity is compulsory by law. What happens when brands find themselves in situations such as these? Transliteration of the reverse kind takes place. The search for typefaces in the native language begins. Layout of the logo artwork and word-mark are adjusted. Patronizing modifications of the native script are attempted.
The case-study analyses these and other approaches to multi-lingual identity design through the lens of consistency and flexibility, and ventures beyond in search of yet unexplored territory. Further, within this context of multi-lingual identity design, it raises questions about the strongly prevalent Euro-centric bias towards type design and typography; and the lack of vision on the part of brand strategists and designers alike in embracing this new direction of identity design.

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  • 1. __ Callifest 2009, held at Sir J. J. School of Art Campus, D. N. Road, Mumbai Image Source http://www.achyutpalav.com/calfest.htm
  • 2. An Inquiry into the role of Typography in Multi-Lingual Identity Systems __ Pooja Saxena Semester VIII, Fashion Communication Programme, National Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi
  • 3. « (Identity is) the fact of being who or what a person or thing is... (and) the characteristics determining this. « __ from Oxford English Dictionary The definition of ‘identity’
  • 4. « Identity Design is about creating the right balance between Consistency and Flexibility. « __ rephrasing Paul Hughes from his talk at Kyoorius Design Yatra, 2009
  • 5. __ Identity for i-D Magazine
  • 6. __ Identity for contemporary art museum De Hallen Haarlem by Cobbenhagen Hendriksen
  • 7. __ Identity for contemporary art museum De Hallen Haarlem by Cobbenhagen Hendriksen
  • 8. « The intervention in the typefaces makes De Hallen Haarlem recognizable into its smallest detail and at same time gives us the ultimate freedom to play around with the overall identity. « __ Identity for contemporary art museum De Hallen Haarlem by Cobbenhagen Hendriksen
  • 9. __ from Christopher Doyle TM Identity Guidelines 2008 by Christopher Doyle
  • 10. « Our explorations must seek to understand racial and economic divides, traverse geographic boundaries and negotiate linguistic barriers. « __ from Cross-cultural Design = Living on the Edge by Erin Moore
  • 11. « (To transliterate is to) write or print (a letter or word) using the closest corresponding letters of a different alphabet or language. « __ from Oxford English Dictionary The definition of ‘identity’
  • 12. « Saumya « « Saumyaa « « Somya «
  • 13. « Saumya « « Saumyaa « « Somya « « Saumya «
  • 14. __ Arabic and English logotype for Tide Detergent from Brand New http://www.underconsideration.com/brandnew/archives/in_brief_the_arabic_brand_expe.php
  • 15. __ Vodafone Hindi
  • 16. « Certainly the proliferation of typefaces — a 2,762% increase since 1974 — has dramatically increased the choice for consumers of typefaces. « __ from Consuming Typefaces: Typefaces, Ubiquity and Internationalisation by Anthony Cahalan
  • 17. __ from FlickR
  • 18. « Even today, typography as a discipline continues to be plagued by a Euro-centric bias. Most contemporary digital type foundries... call these fonts ‘Non-Latin’. These terms certainly have rather colonial overtones, suggesting the idea of ‘the other’, describing foreign scripts in negative terms as ‘non-European’. « __ from A View of Latin Typography in relationship to the World by Peter Bi’lak
  • 19. __ Westside store at Forum Mall in Koramangala, Bangalore
  • 20. __ Westside store at Forum Mall in Koramangala, Bangalore
  • 21. « Identity Design is about creating the right balance between Consistency and Flexibility. « __ rephrasing Paul Hughes from his talk at Kyoorius Design Yatra, 2009
  • 22. « It is clear that design now, more than ever, must become more anthropologic. « __ from Cross-cultural Design = Living on the Edge by Erin Moore
  • 23. « Scripts have always been among the most important carriers of culture. « __ from Signs and Symbols by Adrian Frutiger
  • 24. « The specific nature of a cultural identity is expressed... in the privileged means of communicating thought that we call oral language and... in the constant, precise and sensitive form of graphic expression that we call ‘writing’. « __ from Developing an Awareness of the Typographic Letterform by Ladislas Mandel
  • 25. __ Identity for Big10 Bus Service operated by BMTC in Bangalore by Dig Design Studio
  • 26. __ Identity for Big10 Bus Service operated by BMTC in Bangalore by Dig Design Studio
  • 27. __ from Indian Type Foundry’s FlickR Photostream http://www.flickr.com/photos/indiantypefoundry/
  • 28. « The act of designing is an inherently powerful act. « __ from ‘Why’ The Designing Process by American Institute of Graphic Arts (aiga)
  • 29. « Are we designing products, creating services, and crafting communications that in themselves, through their function, effectively cross cultural boundaries and communicate to different groups simultaneously? « __ from Cross-cultural Design = Living on the Edge by Erin Moore
  • 30. « Thank You! «