It’s impossible for anyone to avoid feeling nostalgic when contemplating their mother tongue. And Kathmandu-based Anand Kumar Mahajan wanted to give more latitude to the subject.
He’s a typeface designer who finds a balance between aesthetic communication and personal expression. It’s a practice that requires a systematic mind and a conscious devotion to the art. He expands upon the foundations of typography, and provides an understanding of type as a means of creating a visual experience. We caught up with him to learn about the tricks of typography:
What do you like the most about the type design process?
I draw sketches on paper, and I experiment with calligraphy tools. Making the words form letters is my favorite step of the process.
What was your motivation to start designing your own fonts?
When I first started my career in graphic design, I used to work with a publication house in Nepal. I was always searching for new fonts to work on, because there were so many English fonts available but hardly any Devanagari fonts. I tried to create my own fonts for book cover headings, or posters for Nepali movies. They’re always looking for something distinctly Nepali.
Bespoke typefaces have become more popular in recent times. What do you think about this development?
It’s great. But in Nepal, typically clients want separate typography for their specific project, but they aren’t interested in having their own sets of typefaces. We’re trying to get this trend started here and a few big brands have already started using their own font and design systems.
Where did you study design?
When I was in college, there was no formal way to study design. I took Business Studies and later joined Lalitkala Fine Art College, Kathmandu. But a lot of it I learned from online tutorials or practicing on my own.
Do you start the design process with sketches or directly on screen?
I mostly draw sketches first, but not always. Sometimes I work directly on screen or with a Wacom tablet.
What are the main differences when you design in different languages?
There’s definitely some difficulties in designing different languages. The first one is a Unicode problem, because it behaves differently for different applications. Letters and words may not render properly and we have to check every detail to make sure it’s correct. The second one is that designing isn’t standardized, so we work with Unicode and Non-Unicode fonts. It takes a long time to develop a Unicode version.
Compared to Devanagari, Nepali and Ranjana scripts are complicated and one needs to understand and learn all the rules of the writing system too.
What kind of techniques do you recommend to people who want to start with type design?
Anyone interested in typography should practice calligraphy, and often. It’s important to understand the shapes and angles of letters before you can begin designing them. You can usually try different types of calligraphy tools and experiment with various brushes before you begin designing on a computer.
How do you feel when you see your typefaces in action?
I feel happy, and inspired to do more.
What are you working on at the moment?
Newa Lipi Unicode, or Nepal Lipi, got approved few years ago by Unicode Consortium. But I’m currently working on developing Ranjana script Unicode fonts, as well as some of my incomplete Devanagari projects.
Images by Ananda Maharjan.