Jatiya (Tamil)

Ria Anderson's picture


I would love to get some critique on this typeface that I'm working on, tentatively named Jatiya*. A bit about my intent:
Jatiya is meant to be a Tamil typeface designed as a companion to the Latin/Greek/Cyrillic typeface Gentium, by Victor Gaultney. I'd like for it to mesh well with the look of Gentium, so that it looks good typeset side-by-side or in a setting like a dual-language dictionary. Ideally, I'd like for it to be a strong stand-alone text typeface as well.
So far I've designed most of the basic consonants and vowels, but I have yet to start on the myriad conjuncts and ligatures, or the numbers and symbols. However, before I complete the character set I'd like to make sure that the design characteristics I've implimented so far are working.

I have very little experience designing type, so I'd like critique on anything you notice, but I'm especially interested in a few things:
- How well the Tamil is working with Gentium;
- if the terminals (which are the same terminals used in Gentium) work with the Tamil glyphs;
- and if the curves and shapes are aesthetically pleasing.

Please be brutally honest! I'm interested in learning as much as I can.

Thanks so much!


* Jatiya, as far as I can tell (I don't speak Tamil, unfortunately), means "national," which is the closest translation I can find to match with Gentium's meaning, "of the nations."

jatiya01.pdf574.31 KB
sample_text_02.pdf905.38 KB
Uli's picture

Please be brutally honest! (I don’t speak Tamil, unfortunately)

In order to examine, whether a text typeset in a new font is readable, it is necessary that the designer is able to read texts typeset in this font. Since you don't speak Tamil, I guess that you are also illiterate as far as written Tamil texts are concerned, e.g. Tamil newspapers, books, etc.

So, to be brutally honest, as requested by you, I suggest that you refrain from designing fonts for texts which you cannot read.

As regards "Jatiya", this is a non-Tamil loanword. A name for a Tamil font should use an original Tamil word, not a non-Dravidian loanword.

paul d hunt's picture

Please ignore Uli. One can certainly design a typeface for a language that you don't read. It takes the same kinds of skills that it takes for designing a Latin typeface. But because we (that's a general we) aren't familiar with scripts we don't read, we must do more work in the forms of research and study, looking at things like character proportions and examining what the essential characteristics of each glyph are. To really judge any typeface design, you really need to see it set in text and not only as separate glyphs. You might try stealing an article from wikipedia, setting it, and removing any non defined characters. Although this results in something that is utter garbage from a text point of view, the idea is that it at least looks like text enough to start being able to judge how the characters are working together. It would be helpful to see someting in all tamil and something in a mixed script setting. If you can do that, perhaps someone can make some useful suggestions for you.

Ria Anderson's picture

Thank you, Paul! I have done quite a bit of research into the Tamil letterforms and their history, and I've looked at many other Tamil typefaces to observe proportions, stroke contrast, etcetera, so I'm not going into this blind, but I was worried that what Uli said would be true; that having not grown up immersed with this script, I wouldn't be able to design a typeface for it. So thank you for confirming my hope that the task is at least possible!

I've put together a PDF with a paragraph of typeset Tamil, one of Tamil mixed with a few lorem ipsums, and one mostly latin with just a few Tamil words: http://people.cca.edu/randerson2/jatiya_text_samples.pdf

Uli; I quite agree that, assuming I finish this, it shouldn't be named with a loan-word. I'm open to naming suggestions if you have any; otherwise, I'll keep looking.

Thanks again,

satya's picture


I liked your typeface overall.

Some personal thoughts:
\ The headline of your Tamil typeface at the moment is aligned to the x-height, what if someone set the type with all caps? Wouldnt your Tamil look too small then? Also, your tamil characters look a little dense compared to the Latin. You should set two separate paragraphs along side and check whether the greys of the text blocks are even or not.
\ Some of your characters are a little narrower I think (e.g. - "ii", "rra", vowel sign "aa", "ra") and some of which are a bit wider( e.g. - "pa", "u").
\ The descenders are too small.
\ Vowel "Ai" is too big?
\ The final stroke of the Letter "ka" should not connect to the body.
\ The endings of the top horizontal stroke of the letters like "ka", "ta", "na" should be consistent throughout.
\ In your paragraphs, the dot(pulli) is misplaced all over. It should come exactly in the center(visually) of the character.
\ Also the vowel sign "i" and "ii" should connect properly with the consonant. ( You might need to create some separate ligatures for these combinations)
\ The curves are not smooth and consistent throughout, there are lot of places where they are taking a sudden change.

Its a great design and I would love to see this along with some ligatures in a proper text set next to the Latin.

All the best.

Ria Anderson's picture


Thank you so much! This is extremely helpful. I (think) I've incorporated all your suggestions; I've put up a new sample text at http://typophile.com/files/sample_text_02.pdf above, with a few more characters and (hopefully) some of the problems corrected.


xa's picture

Hi Ria,

I'm curently in Tamil Nadu and I can see this typeface used in local newspapers...
So, why you didn't mention that your design is just a 'serif' modification?

And of course, we can design a typeface without reading it but we need some help from local readers (and know the combinations between vowels, consonants, diacritics...).

One more question, why did you choose this writing?



Uli's picture

I’m curently in Tamil Nadu and I can see this typeface used in local newspapers...
So, why you didn’t mention that your design is just a ’serif’ modification?

That the Jatiya ripoff is a modification of an existing Tamil font was pretty obvious to me. I only posted to this thread to see whether the Typophile moderators Paul D. Hunt etc. protect font cloners who do not even speak the language for which the ripped-off font is used. Making a few modifications to the serifs of existing fonts is the easiest font forging method for budding font forgers (see http://www.forgers.de).

paul d hunt's picture

You can possibly expect the moderators of typophile to spot a font clone on sight. especially not of a non-Latin script. we are only humans, not databases of typefaces from home and abroad.
if you believe that you have spotted a clone, the best thing is to call it out yourself, giving credit to the original and not to play a game to try to test the moderators. we're fallible. we recognize that. so what's your point?

Ria Anderson's picture


To start; this font is NOT a ripoff; I drew all the curves by hand, I didn't trace over any other font, and I most certainly did not just tack serifs onto a pre-existing font. Literally the only parts of the face that I didn't draw are the terminals; I took them from Gentium (which, AFAIK, is permissable under its license), and that was not with intent to steal; it was so that the two faces would share some visual unity.

Xavier, could you possibly post an image of what the typeface used in the local newspapers looks like?

I'm not sure how I can prove that this is my original creation, but if it would help, I can list the typefaces that I looked at when familiarizing myself with the script. I looked at them not to copy them, but to learn some acceptable deviations of the shapes, where the stroke contrast fell, character widths, etc. At no time did I just copy a shape from one of them; I looked at many, saw how that character related to others in that typeface, then tried to design a character that would fit in with the appearance of mine. The fonts I looked at are:
Frida Tamil
Monotype Tamil 580
and the numerous fonts shown in this catalog: http://www.modular-infotech.com/downloads/fonts/tamuniv.pdf

I also looked through the Indic Scripts pool on Flickr, at the pictures of hand-painted Tamil signs.

With all that being said... I'm troubled that my face looks so similar to a pre-existing one. I'd really like to see HOW similar it is so I can determine whether I should still try to finish it or if I should try to design something more unique.

Xavier; I chose to try to design a Tamil typeface because I think the script is beautiful.

And with all that being said; I'd still like some critique of my design, if people can trust that it's my design and not a copy.

Thanks for your time,

cerulean's picture

All I can offer for critique is that all the terminal loops look pretty lumpy on close inspection.

As for Xa's accusation, keep in mind that there are a lot of people in the world who would "recognize" Gentium as "Times New Roman".

Quincunx's picture

It would be nice when someone who accuses someone else of ripping something off would post proof of that. Without it it's just an accusation based on nothing. With all due respect, but that's rather tasteless in my opinion.

Uli's picture

> With all due respect, but that’s rather tasteless in my opinion.

Since "Orange" considered it a waste of time to learn Tamil, and since "Orange" even considered it a waste of time to choose a Tamil name for the Tamil ripoff font, I must consider it a waste of time to supply further proof.

Ria Anderson's picture


I'm not sure I understand your logic. I would imagine that many of the people here who design fonts for Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic are not trilingual, and are doing, as Paul said above, "more work in the forms of research and study" for the alphabets for languages they don't speak.
How is my case any different?
I don't consider it a "waste of time" to learn Tamil; I would like nothing more than to be fluent in it, but at the stage of life I'm in right now, that massive of a time commitment doesn't fit in with what else I want to do (mainly, design type).
As I also said, I will change the name to a non-loan word; you'll notice if you re-read my first post that I never set this name in stone. I had originally considered naming this face Kallai (is that a loan word?), but decided against it because I read that it can have a negative connotation.

My original intent was to come here for critique, and after heeding said critique I planned to find as many native Tamil speakers as I could to look at my typeface and determine whether it's working the way it should (both visually and mechanically). I of course will also ask for naming input from someone who speaks the language.

Please stop calling my font a ripoff. It's not; it's my honest attempt at an original creation. I take plagiarism very seriously, and would never knowingly steal another's work.


Cerulean; thank you, I'll see what I can do about smoothing the terminal loops.

Quincunx's picture

> Since “Orange” considered it a waste of time to learn Tamil, and since “Orange” even considered it a waste of time to choose a Tamil name for the Tamil ripoff font, I must consider it a waste of time to supply further proof.

Just get off your high horse for a bit there, and stop jumping on every opportunity that presents itself to shout "rip-off" or "forgery", it's getting old really fast.

It's ok that you communicate your concerns about plagiarism, but if you do, you have to provide sources to back up your claims and bring it in a slightly more tactful manner. If you find it a waste of time to provide proof, then in the future consider it a waste of time to post at all.

Otherwise people just won't take you seriously.

xa's picture

Hi Ria,

I checked one more time the tamil newspaper and you're right... this is just similar but not the same design.
So, forgive me for the nasty acusation!

I have some comments about the calligraphic style of Gentium wich is not enough visible in you tamil design.

As you know Gentium is a calligraphic design and Gaultney has probably studied calligraphy before design it. We can see these particular shapes especially in the italic cuts.

So, if you want to match a Tamil to Gentium, you should study a bit Tamil calligraphy. The shapes will depend on the nib angle used to write. Besides, your Tamil is slanted, so, we should found a cursif feeling.

But I didn't understand something; You can't read Tamil, why not (I designed Khmer typefaces without reading it) but is there a purpose to design it? Somebody will use it? because designing face without -potential- users (and readers), that doesn't make really sense.

One more time, sorry for the accusation, your Tamil is not a ripoff.



guifa's picture

because designing face without -potential- users (and readers), that doesn’t make really sense.

Eh yes and no. It doesn't make economic sense perhaps, but I doubt most of us who work in Latin script would consider our first Cyrillic or Greek attempts very good. It's a learning experience and one that's a lot longer I would think the farther removed the script is from our native ones. Besides, in the end you never know who might want to buy your font.

«El futuro es una línea tan fina que apenas nos damos cuenta de pintarla nosotros mismos». (La Luz Oscura, por Javier Guerrero)

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