Aparajita, a new Devanagari for Windows 7

clauses's picture

So I just saw this blog entry on the new fonts in Windows 7 http://blogs.msdn.com/e7/archive/2009/07/07/engineering-windows-7-for-a-global-market.aspx, and in it they have a new Devanagari family called 'Aparajita'. It looks like this:

When I saw this latinized (is it not?) design, this came to mind:

Gerry Leonidas holding Jan van Krimpen's drawings from Romulus Greek at the library of the Museum Meermanno Westreenianum (Museum of the Book) in the Hague. (Photo courtesy of Dan Reynolds).

What do you think? Is Aparajita latinized, and if it is, does that matter?

dan_reynolds's picture

I can't say whether or not the typeface is "latinized." It does have serifs on it, and it has a stroke contrast that doesn't strike me as one common in traditional examples of writing in the Devanagari script.

However, I can say that in India, there are a whole lot of examples of contemporary display lettering and display typography including Devanagari letterforms that:
– have serifs
– and/or have a stroke contrast that isn't traditional

I doubt that anyone expects Aparajita to be used as a text face in the way that e.g., most of the ClearType collection of Latin faces from a few years back would be used as text faces. As a display face, it might be the right note for certain compositions. In the sample you show above, Claus, there are a few things happening above the headline that I think should be done a little differently. I am going to leave my comments at that, though ;-)

I wouldn't go so far as to compare it with Romulus Greek, though. Romulus Greek is an exercise in the naiv… it really was intended as a text face, if I have my history correct (I am not the biggest JvK-fan…). Seeing as there are already plenty of other things that remind me of Aparajita, I don't think the oddity found in Romulus Greek applies. But you never know with typographers, calligraphers, artists, and professors. Maybe somewhere, some writing expert is smiling at this post in that familiar Gerry Leonidas way…

rob keller's picture

Well, I am excited to at least see Microsoft putting out some new non-Latins (hello Apple?).

This is quite a strange design though. There is a precedent for this style of design, there are several others in this genre already used/available. However, one would hope/assume that the Microsoft versions will be better drawn and engineered with complete character sets.

Dan is right: there are some really weird things going on with the character shapes. I don't understand some of the decisions made and why it is so consistently inconsistent. At least it will be easily ID-able once it starts popping up in everyone's logos :P

The sloped italics are also unfortunate, especially with the vowel marks that aren't aligned properly in the regular italic (the bold ones are better).

Cheers,
Rob

kentlew's picture

Actually the serifs aren't the most striking thing to me. The "modern" contrast is unorthodox, and a little amusing, but not unprecedented. "Latinized"? Okay, maybe. I certainly see what you mean.

What strikes my eyes most, however, (but now, I'm not a native user) is some of the seemingly oversized forms. Seems to me like the Indic equivalent of a huge x-height. I mean, look at that full-figured ka, the ca almost hitting the roof, and the honking loop on the na. I find the angled stroke ending on the ta also a little odd.

But really, who cares what I [we] think? I suppose the proof in the pudding will be how the intended audience of Devanagari users responds.

Hindi Rinny's picture

Hi! Just wanted to chime-in and say that I'm pretty sure the typeface isn't new, and wasn't developed by Microsoft, in case heads start butting! (Feel free to challenge this assumption!)

- http://www.microsoft.com/typography/fonts/font.aspx?FMID=1700 - Aparajita, developed in 2001 by Modular Infotech
- http://www.modular-infotech.com/html/otf.html - Modular Infotech's font catalog. If you click on the Devanagari pdf, I believe Aparajita is samples 0710, 0711, and 0712.

Additionally, I have a feeling that it was designed by Karambir Singh Rohilla (if annyone wants to try to track him down and ask him).

Yeah, I have seen a myriad of serifed Indic fonts... not sure when that trend started to happen. I personally have never liked them much, and they of course historically make no sense, in terms of the development of the script. This one in particular I just find really hard to read - did they HAVE to choose it, out of all Devanagari display faces? Sigh.

** edit - Also just wanted to say that this font has been used quite a bit in India by now and wasn't hidden from the public or anything.

** edit edit - heh.. heh.... links might work now.

clauses's picture

But really, who cares what I [we] think? I suppose the proof in the pudding will be how the intended audience of Devanagari users responds.

Indeed. It would be very interesting to hear a point of view from a native user of Devanagari about this design. I'm very interested to hear about the inspiration / tradition / roots for the serifs and modulation/contrast in this design.

clauses's picture

Hi Erin
I see on your profile that you will be coming to Reading for the new term. Congratulations!

Thanks for giving us the info, but your links don't work.

dan_reynolds's picture

@Kent
I think that some of the "x-height" bigness that you mention is ok. It all depends on the size the type is set at! You see this kind of treatment often in display type and lettering. Newspaper headlines come to my mind… (but I look at a lot of newspapers). Some of the difference is like the difference between book hands being written out with a pen, and larger sign lettering being painted with a brush.

So for a text face, a big round ka like that is probably going to be a no no. But in a display face (that is really going to be used at display sizes…), I think that it can be appropriate. Again, it depends on the usage, just like any sort of typography.

@Erin
Welcome to Typophile!
Good work tracking down Aparajita's info. It is worth noting that most MS faces were not developed by Microsoft, but licensed by Microsoft from designers and/or foundries. Just look at a list of all the latin fonts bundled with Windows!

rob keller's picture

I was going to pull out some specimen books this afternoon to check out this design, but Erin beat me to it. She is spot on with naming the source!

Why this design though? There are some really cool display fonts out there, but this one just doesn't really do it for me. Maybe we will get some native speakers to chime in on this one eventually...

dan_reynolds's picture

Yes… Satya, where are you?

kentlew's picture

@Dan
I'm sure you're right; context makes a difference.

My perspective is from my years of learning Sanskrit. Plus, my temperament is naturally classicist.

But Western type design is all over the map; why not Devanagari? Who are we to deny them their pluralism? Maybe Aparajita can become the Hindi Hobo.

hashimpm's picture

Serif is alien to most of the Indian scripts, but I don't find any harm in adding much-needed variety to Devanagari typography. University Roman, Americana etc. are not used everyday, but they do add variety to Raman typography. If my guess is right this is either a C-DAC creation or a rip-off of one of their designs by another type design company (read Modular who names them by numbers!) in India.

Wish Microsoft would bother to make Kart(h)ika look more like Malayalam!

satya's picture

I am sure it was a decision of someone who cannot read, or understand Hindi properly. Such designs can only appeal to people who never bothered to read, or make meaning out of it. It may look interesting from a foreigners point-of-view, but it's not legible at all - nor in text, neither on the display sizes. There is no visual consistency in the forms, and skeleton.

To me, it's an ugly design with a weird set of proportions. It's not even refined properly. I am wondering how the complex conjuncts will appear in this design, e.g. in MRa or MNa? Just analyze the provided sample only; the MatraI's are not coming properly, the Anusvara is too small and going slightly off on the letter Sa in regular italic (also the Reph on Ma too), the MatraE on Ka is not centrally aligned (neither in upright nor in the italic version), joinery in letter Sa is detached in Bold version whereas it's connected in the regular version. The letter Na looks weak in bold version compared to its neighbors. All the matra's are detached from the Shirorekha (Headline), and it's in the middle of nowhere. Also, I have a feeling that the bold and italic versions are automated. These are a few errors I noticed in this sample specific, but am sure I can point-out more if I see the complete character set. I have seen this typeface being used locally and never liked it.

As a universal note, when we read Devanagari, the Shirorekha (Headline) serves as a visual guideline like the Serifs do in Latin. But here with both these styles together, it breaks the consistency somehow and makes it less legible. Historically also, these designs says nothing about the development of Devanagari.

And yes, as someone said, it's not a new design. A lot of companies in India, including C-DAC, Modular Infotech, Summit Infotech, and etcetera have been selling it with a different name since long. And now am seeing it with a new name, Aparajita. Well done, Microsoft! Keep it up! ;-)

--

Btw, Aparajita in Hindi (usually a girl's name) means, the undefeated.

cfynn's picture

Wow, the Modular Infotech site says "We have till date, designed and implemented over 3410 Fonts in over 14 Languages." 3410 - and these are all original designs?

- Chris

dan_reynolds's picture

They've been in the game for at least two decades. I visited them last year; they have a big staff, and are up to a few hundred new releases per year.

hashimpm's picture

Modular fonts are mostly rip-offs from C-DAC designs or crude original designs which are unusable. The very fact that Microsoft has chosen to outsource fonts from them speaks volumes about their quality consciousness. The way they churn them out with numbers as names reminds one of the Humanist777s, Swiss555s and likes that plagues Roman typography even now.

No wonder despite Windows being availbale in many Indian languages, it hasn't caught on with the publishing industry who still prefer custom fonts.

hrant's picture

How had I missed this thread?
(OK, gotta actually read it before having a knee-jerk reaction...)

hhp

Si_Daniels's picture

I guess I missed it too. Aparajita is actually one of several Indic fonts that were licensed from Modular and developed for Office some time ago and were added to the OS in the Windows 7 time frame to provide additional variety of Indic fonts for the platform. To be honest I've not heard any direct criticism of this design from native speakers and if anything it seems to be one of the preferred Devanagari fonts out there. However, as always if there are improvements that can be made to the design we can take a look, but as for now "undefeated" seems like an appropriate name. :-)

Cheers, Si

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