Multi script Typedesign – Prelude and Research
By Shriram Rajakumar
A research study of the Tamil script to create a multi-script Latin and Tamil typeface.
Multi script Typedesign – Prelude and Research
by Shriram Rajakumar
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The ideation

This project will be a culmination of my ideologies of the past and what I wish to do in the future. In the past my briefs always revolved around illustration, photography and typography. There was a heavy focus on pure visual story telling. Ocularcentrism is a major attribute of graphic design. There is always an emphasis and priority for the visual more than the other senses in modern graphic design education. 

I am bilingual in Tamil and English, and was born in a country from where multiple languages coexist, typography and type design had always peeked my curiosity. Multilingual cultures require multi-script typefaces. This thought process helped me discover a niche. Public Signage in India usually require two or more languages to be displayed. This could potentially be an opportunity to explore sensory design in the context of signage and type design. 


My focus now turned to understanding and designing a multi-script  Tamil and Latin typeface. I chose to study street signs and hand calligraphy as a medium to further understand the Tamil script. The sign painters think and speak in tamil. This dependency on the script helps create a combination of legible and beautiful form.

Understanding Tamil

I had been a native Tamil speaker for almost two decades until I moved to a different country and began to loose touch with my tongue and my native way of thinking. I used to think in Tamil. Now my thought process flows in English. This meant that I had to get back to my routes of reading, writing and thinking like a Tamilian. I am also half a world away and cannot engage in any primary research and had to rely heavily on archival and research from locals and other designers.

Street Calligraphy

There are many streets in the India where there is no room to place sign boards.  These are situational instances where local lettering artists make their mark. Brush lettering has become a tool to paint street addresses and other signage on to any available suface, usually a wall. These artists can render letters in both English and Tamil. The beauty and effectiveness of such street signage is completely dependant on the skill of the artist. Due to the lack of any typefaces or standardized foms, they can adapt to the limited space and shape of any street corner they paint on


This unique and artist solution to this problem of street signage made me realize that there is need for a Typeface that can deal with this specific problem. The challenge is to balance tamil and latin in terms of form when the languages are translated and transliterated into this unpredictable and volatile environment.

Capstone Brief

To understand the visual grammar of the tamil script and study the influence of tamil on latin and vice versa.

Why Research?

Type design is a long and intricate process that requires a lot of time. It cannot be completed into a working font within the given timeline. Understanding the visual language will establish rules for the future to create a typeface for not only Tamil but other Indic scripts as well.


The initial process involves myself getting familiar and comfortable with the Tamil script. This also involves learning calligraphy to understand the practice of the local artist and street painters. This process will later be followed when working on Latin characters.

Before I explored calligrapraphy, I dabbled with a few Tamil characters   and explored how much I can stretch the form until it becomes unrecognizable. This helped understand what aspects of the character were a part of its unique identity.


The forms were further refined by exploring more precise calligraphic strokes while adjusting strokes and counters.





A specific character was chosen to explore how counter forms effect the overall interpretation of the glyph

Below are a few resolved form explorations.


This project is a work in progress. The next step is to further explore the possibilities of bridging the visual gap between the two scripts while still maintaining their unique identities.

When an Indian lives in America they tend to pick up the accent and this accent flows into their native tongue. What happens when its the other way around? What if an American goes to a different nation and when he picks up the local language, the accent spill into his english.

Typography is the voice of the Language. I wish to explore the above scenario in this project and I am hoping to start working on a complete usable typeface as soon as possible.


Shriram Rajakumar was repsonsible for posting the content on this page. Any inqueries should be directed to the contact information listed above.