An Inquiry into the role of Typography in Multilingual Identity Systems

I am very excited about being one of the student speakers at Typography Day being held at J. J. Institute of Applied Art in Mumbai later this month. Here’s the abstract of the case-study I am going to present,

The trick to implementing an identity system brilliantly is striking the perfect balance between consistency and flexibility. Without consistency, a brand is not recognizable; and unless there is flexibility, the brand will be mundane, and will fail to address its multiple audiences successfully in a variety of situations. This case-study attempts to chart how these two opposing forces work in tandem in the typography of multi-lingual identity systems.

Most identity systems of the past, and even present, have not been designed to accommodate more than one language typographically, especially languages using different scripts. When a brand wants to address its audience in a second language, it ends up using transliteration. This works well when the audience can read the language in which the system has been designed but fails miserably when they cannot.

Today, brands are expanding into new cultural zones where their survival is dependent on using a second language, and into regions where using the native language in their identity is compulsory by law. What happens when brands find themselves in situations such as these? Transliteration of the reverse kind takes place. The search for typefaces in the native language begins. Layout of the logo artwork and word-mark are adjusted. Patronizing modifications of the native script are attempted.

The case-study analyses these and other approaches to multi-lingual identity design through the lens of consistency and flexibility, and ventures beyond in search of yet unexplored territory. Further, within this context of multi-lingual identity design, it raises questions about the strongly prevalent Euro-centric bias towards type design and typography; and the lack of vision on the part of brand strategists and designers alike in embracing this new direction of identity design.

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Comments 2

  1. harish42 February 20, 2010

    Interesting topic. Do put the finished paper up as well. The Euro-centric bias is interesting. Many Asian languages are steeped in calligraphy. If you could find a way to utilize this as a starting point in developing typefaces and fonts, it would be commendable.

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