With a penchant for alphabets, number and symbols since his childhood, Ramakrishna Saiteja went on to become the third Indian to bag the SOTA Catalyst Award for typeface design this year. SOTA, founded in 2010, recognises young talents who have created original work in type design, type history or typography. Ramakrishna, all of 23, can trace back his love for alphabets and characters to summer art classes in Bangalore. ‘During art classes one of the very first assignments was to create patterns out of numbers, letters and symbols to loosen up our wrists; the outcome was a mere abstraction of the original forms. That was probably my first step towards who I was going to become.’
During his first years at DJ Academy of Design it was a chance acquaintance with a senior that egged him on into Typeface Design. Parimal Parmar, a fourth year student at the time, was the first at the college to work on Type Design for his graduation process. Ramakrishna fell in love with Parimal’s project, making a note of the subtle intricacies that goes into building fonts. ‘His project impacted me in such a way that that it changed the course of my life. After that I knew Graphic Design, Typography & Type Design was all I wanted to do.’
His work with typography while at college led to an internship with Itu Chaudhuri Design in New Delhi. With a further whetted knowledge of fonts, Ramakrishna worked on his graduation project with Indian Type Foundry. While at ITF, he designed a few Indic scripts including Coorg Kannada, Deccan Telugu and a Latin Type Design. Along with colleagues Jonny Pinhorn and Nikhil Ranganathan, he crafted Telugu and Kannada extensions for the ITF Typeface Akhand. ‘In Indic Type Design, understanding the skeleton of the characters in a script and how they combine with each other is one of the primary steps of the process. A study of existing typefaces then helps in identifying areas with room for intervention. Then comes the ideation and conceptualization based on this study. Deconstructing a structure that is so deep-rooted in me, in order to see the characters just as forms in an arrangement is a part of my design process.’
With the SOTA Catalyst Award backing him up, Ramakrishna is driven to change the landscape of type design in India along with his colleagues at ITF. Understanding the history and traditional roots of our native scripts, and reimagining them with a sharper design is what pushes him to scale newer heights.
Text Ritupriya Basu