We arrived bright and early on Saturday morning for our first internal workshop, an introduction to Gujarati, taught by Kalapi, one of Dalton Maag’s font engineers. We were, in fact, the test subjects for the workshop he will be teaching at TypeCon this year (in Portland this August) and ATypI in Amsterdam.
Kalapi is a native speaker of Gujarati and researched and designed a typeface in that script during his master’s degree at the University of Reading. He agreed to share his knowledge with whoever in the company was interested in learning a bit about the script (and there were quite a few of us there, including designers, engineers and even the big boss, Bruno). Aside from Kalapi, none of us had any previous knowledge of the Gujarati script (although a few of the designers present had previous experience designing related Indic scripts).
It turned out that no previous experience was necessary. The structure of the workshop allowed us to gain some familiarity with Gujarati letterforms, first by writing down glyphs, then watching a slideshow of wonderfully varied examples of Gujarati lettering, and by the end of the day we were all designing our own glyphs in different display styles.
In the morning we were introduced to Gujarati consonants and vowels. Using different type specimens as a reference, we started writing individual letters at first, and then our own names – some people ventured further and even started writing other words in Gujarati or English. We used slanted markers which, when held at the correct angle, allowed us to see and understand the distribution of weight in Gujarati text (it’s similar to many other Indic scripts, but the opposite of the Latin script). We were then assigned 3 glyphs that we would develop further in the afternoon.
After lunch, Kalapi showed us a fantastic collection of pictures with an incredible amount of variation and styles for the Gujarati script. By then, we could recognise several of the glyphs in the pictures, and Kalapi helped us recognise different letters whenever they strayed too far from the more calligraphic and typographic models we had looked at in the morning. The slideshow was beautiful, fun and really inspiring. We learned that the Gujarati script is incredibly flexible and can be pushed quite far in terms of stylistic variation.
Finally, we went to our computers and started drawing our assigned glyphs. By the end of the day, when we looked at what everybody had done laid out in front of us, there was a wide array of different display styles on the table.
All in all, it was a really fun and informative introduction to this beautiful script. It didn’t seem too difficult or daunting, and we left really inspired to learn and design more.