Text as Image: Studying Bangla (Bengali) lettering traditions through practice
The 20th Century saw a profusion of lettering in the Bangla script. Book titles, film posters and album covers were designed in expressive and imaginative lettering. Typography on hand-painted signs, graffiti and vehicle art form an indelible part of the visual landscape in West Bengal and Bangladesh even today. Many styles were created by artists with different tools for varied media. But what remains common to all is that the text doesn’t merely complement the illustration. The text is the image itself.
This method of illustrating text as image forms an integral part of my own lettering practice. Through examples of my work in Bangla, I will share two approaches to my practice—the abstraction of a letter and the materiality of a tool. The first distills the letterform to its essence and the second shapes the form itself. It is the interplay of these two perspectives that yields multiple design possibilities.
About Sulekha Rajkumar
Sulekha Rajkumar is an independent type designer, lettering artist, and graphic designer. A graduate from Sir J.J. Institute of Applied Art, she previously worked at Ray+Keshavan | Brand Union, where she led the design team as Senior Design Director. As a type designer, she collaborates with various type foundries, namely Ek Type, and specializes in both Bangla and Latin scripts. Her typefaces are available on Google Fonts and Apple. She has conducted talks and workshops on lettering, type design, and branding at various design conferences namely TypeWknd, DesignUp, and TypoDay and has taught at various design institutes, namely Srishti Institute of Design. Her work has been featured in Dieline, Pool Magazine and has received awards at D&AD and Kyoorius Design Awards.
She is currently working on a variable Bangla typeface which is an homage to the crisp structured letter forms one sees on hand-lettered signs in West Bengal and Bangladesh. She continues to study and experiment with Bangla letterforms through her lettering practice.
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