Anatomy of the Hindi font

Aditya Dipankar's picture

It suddenly stuck me one day that English typefaces are so much all over the planet that we at time neglect the (little) lesser yet beautiful ones. In fact, the beautiful scripts that these emerge from open such vast spaces for exploration. It was then decided that I’ll pick up our very own Devanagari, the mother of many Indic languages, a very few of them being Hindi, Marathi and Nepali.

In this entire exploration exercise, I made it a point to do whatever I wanted to on my own terms and conditions. I picked up Devanagari for the same and what followed was an interesting series of revelations.

One of the first things that is obvious and comes to anybody’s notice is how there is clearly a ‘Roof’ to the entire typeface here. The roof that is actually a line from which all the consonants in the alphabet hang is a part of the entire typeface and plays a major role in even differentiating the pronunciation of many words that are formed.

Another thing is the many prominent features such as the ‘matras’ that I labelled as being a part of the ionosphere that is above the supporting ‘Roof’ of the words. Again there is also the prominent ‘Mantle’ that is below the main region and which also houses a lot of things (matras, pronunciation supporters etc.) There are amongst all of these, prominent features in the typeface, like the ‘Nose’, the ‘Hive’ and the ‘Cusp’ etc, which are a feature of many consonants, in Hindi and give a prominent character to the entire alphabet.

Taking reference from the basics, typefaces by convention are comprised of lines that are either, straight, curved or slanted. In the Devanagari script too, it is an amazing amalgamation of the three and the formations when noted carefully are beautifully set together.

Editor’s Note: I would personally suggest the readers who are familiar with scripts other than Latin to try and study those scripts with the new light and fundamentals explained here. I cannot say that it will help you create brilliant typographic designs but yes it will give you insights that will not be learnt any other way.

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Comments

Stephen Rapp's picture

Do you have an image of the anatomy that is large enough to actually read the text?

paul d hunt's picture

If you're interested in a typeface designer's take on this same topic, you might look at Fiona Ross' diagram in her book The Printed Bengali Character and its Evolution. Although the diagram is of the Bengali script, there are several common features between Devanagari and Bengali.

Aditya Dipankar's picture

Hey Paul,

Yes, Hindi and Bengali though do not belong to the same scripts, have certain native characteristics in common. However, the formation of the alphabets is quite different in both the cases.
I'll surely take a look at the book you've recommended here.

Thanks,
Aditya

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