Vinotha Panja Pillay: ‘A life’s work’ – a tribute to Frutiger

Interview with Vinotha Panja Pillay for the Baseline blog.

A Life’s Work is a project that pays tribute to Adrian Frutiger through investigating the powerful connection between type and language. He visited the National Institute of Design (NID), India in 1957 and 1967.

It is fascinating that a type designer accustomed to working with the Roman alphabet was requested to design an Indian typeface. Through this project, I celebrate Frutiger work, exploring his role as an ‘inspiration’ for India. There, Frutiger collaborated with Mahendra Patel, to design and advise Patel in the two Indian typefaces, Devanagari and Tamil Linear.

An interview with Patel forms the basis of this project which considers the cultural relationship between Roman and Indian alphabets. Clearly respected for his work, Frutiger visited India to renew Indian typography in a manner analogous to the development of European typefaces. Here a question arises: why is it that Indian typefaces should be developed in a similar way to European typefaces? Typefaces from different languages have their own uniqueness. Different typefaces such as Roman and Sanskrit carry cultures and identity of people.

I became interested in the development of Indian typefaces related to the history of colonialism in India. Although the goal is to celebrate Frutiger’s work I also included my own position with an article that discusses: ‘Is the English language a means of dominating?’

I have written my own copy about the way the language of colonisation has affected Indians. This is based on my personal experience of attending an English school in Malaysia where I was forbidden to speak my native language. I was so interested in learning in the English language that I forgot to learn how to write and read the Tamil language. Language is powerful as it represents our culture and identity.

Interview with Vinotha Panja Pillay for the Baseline blog.

Researching the brief

My research started with the key points as given in the brief. From there, I went to further investigate, as some could not be found in the library or online – I felt the compulsion to find out more information from the people who were involved in the project previously.

Paying tribute

I chose to work on the Adrian Frutiger brief. The project aimed to celebrate the life work of the designer. I wanted to pay tribute to Frutiger by studying the powerful connection between type and language. After some investigation, I came to know that Frutiger has previously worked with Mahendra Patel, from India, to design an Indian typeface. This piqued my interest in the development of Indian typefaces, in relation to the history of colonialism in India.

Detailing

To describe ‘detailing’ in my project, I’d have to say it was the typography, a detail which is a vital element of design in general. For example, using the right kerning and leading, quotation marks, consideration of letters, words and typeface used as well as text aligned to a fixed grid. All this small typography detailing need to be considered in order to set the text perfectly.

Lessons to take away

This project has certainly been educational to me as it allowed me to think and analyse critically. I have come to understand that sometimes it is not bad to criticise an artwork. Critics are needed in order to excel and produce more sophisticated artwork. Being critical also enabled me to evaluate information from different perspectives and to judge and analyse artworks.

Gaining experience

Unfortunately, I did not pass the ISTD assessment despite the effort and time that I invested in this project. However, that does not judge my work. I believe that failures are the key to success. Personally, this project means a lot to me. It taught me about typography in immense depth, taught me to have more discipline in my work, and allowed to think critically. Most importantly, this project taught me to accept failure and handle rejection.

A Life’s Work. Vinotha Panja Pillay, 2016.
A Life’s Work. Vinotha Panja Pillay, 2016.
A Life’s Work. Vinotha Panja Pillay, 2016.
A Life’s Work. Vinotha Panja Pillay, 2016.
A Life’s Work. Vinotha Panja Pillay, 2016.
A Life’s Work. Vinotha Panja Pillay, 2016.

Pic 5

A Life’s Work. Vinotha Panja Pillay, 2016.
A Life’s Work. Vinotha Panja Pillay, 2016.

Vinotha Panja Pillay

University for the Creative Arts, Epsom
BA Graphic Design


About ISTD

International Society of Typographic Designers, ISTD, the professional body for typographers, graphic designers and educators.

The ISTD student assessment scheme, started in 1975, is cited as a model of academic thoroughness and professionalism. Unlike many others, the scheme is not a competition as it considers the holistic achievement – not just the final outcome. The overall design process of research, reflection, strategy, design development, technical and production specification is assessed by teams of practising designers and educators. Students who are successful in the scheme are offered membership of the Society.

 

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