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You are here: Home / Conferences / Hong Kong 2012 / Programme / 11–14 October – General programme

Black and white in indian typography

When Fri 12 Oct 1625
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Who D. Udaya Kumar

India is a diverse country with multiple scripts, Tamil and Sanskrit being the earliest among them. The ancient script, Brāhmī is the root of all Indian scripts. The script is also the parent to several other major script families of Central and Southeast Asia. Each of these Indian scripts evolved on its own course over centuries. The medium and tools used for writing played an important role in the evolution process.

The palm leaf manuscripts were one of the major mediums used for written communication during the early periods. Their writing system and calligraphy were unlike the Far Eastern and Western calligraphic cultures. The concept of black and white was no concern for the calligrapher. In the majority of manuscripts the content was more important than the aesthetics of lettering or composition. On the other hand the present scripts have its roots from the unique writing system and medium. The scripts that has evolved with such culture and written practices reflected the same in the contemporary typography. Similar to the manuscript calligraphy the present typography that is seen all around has no concerns for the black and white. This raises the several important questions such as, is it important to balance the black and white in typography? Does the concept of black and white really matters in typography of Indian scripts?

This paper primarily aims at understanding the concept of black and white in Indian typography especially in Tamil script. It discusses the calligraphy on palm leaf manuscript, influence of the medium and its writing system on letterforms. It also explores the issues related to aesthetics in Indian language typography in comparison to Western typography.

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