The Hyderabad-based designer discusses crafting original typefaces and her love for Indian scripts
As a child, Anagha Narayanan frequented her father’s offset printing press in Hyderabad, the place where her love for types began. “I still remember the scent of ink, and the warmth of papers fresh out of the machine. It is one of my favourite childhood memories,” she recollects. And now, many years later, the 23-year-old is over the moon after being selected as winner of the SOTA Catalyst Award, issued by The Society of Typographic Aficionados to people under 25 who have created original work in typography. Anagha was only in middle school when she developed her first font. “I did not know anything about types or designs then. I was just having fun,” she says. Later, as an intern at the Black Foundry in Paris, she worked on a project using the Devanagari script. “My team loved it. As type design is a niche field, this appreciation gave me a huge boost of confidence to take it up as a career.”
Her most challenging work is called ‘Ilai’, and it is one of the first variable Tamil typeface. “Though I grew up in Hyderabad, my roots are from Tamil Nadu. This inspired me to create Ilai. There are nine styles to Ilai, and I have designed them in a way to make it look like they are dancing when we move the page,” she explains. Anagha first draws her designs on paper and later modifies them using software. “It can take years to complete a single typeface. For example, I started working on Ilai in December 2018, and I’m still working on improving it. It has really helped me improve my patience,” she adds.Her favourite typeface designers are Hitesh Malaviya, Kelapi Gujjar, and Shiva Nallaperumal. “I’m lucky to be working with Hitesh and Kelapi at Universal Thirst Type Foundry, Bengaluru. They have done some amazing work on local fonts. I admire their style and creativity,” Anagha says, adding that she hopes to focus on Indian scripts in the future. “The diverse culture of our country has gifted us with many languages and scripts. One can find a new one in every State and it is so fascinating. I cannot wait to work with all of them.”Anagha came to know about this award while a student at DJ Academy of Design, Coimbatore. “Two of my seniors in college — Shiva and Ramakrishna Saiteja — have been awarded earlier. It inspired me to participate.” Anagha applied with her portfolio in April and she was informed about the award in May. “None knew except my parents till the official announcement last week,” she says. The award includes prize money of $2000. “The public ceremony will be conducted in 2021 in Philadelphia. This will be attended by type designers from around the world and it will be a great platform for me to understand them and their works better,” she says.