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Vishal Rawlley and Kurnal Rawat


Vishal Rawlley and Kurnal Rawat, Typocity, 2003
Vishal Rawlley and Kurnal Rawat, Typocity, 2003 Vishal Rawlley and Kurnal Rawat, Typocity, 2003
Headed by Vishal Rawlley and Kurnal Rawat, TyPoCiTy offers a rare opportunity to view the social fabric and cultural history of a city from a typographic point of view. With its abundance of diverse typographic styles and forms, Mumbai (Bombay), India, proved to be an ideal venue to study the local tradition of handmade signs that permeate the city.

In 2002-2003, Rawlley and Rawat received a research fellowship from the Sarai New Media Initiative to photograph typographic forms and vernacular styles, and analyse their social significance. With the influx of globalisation, uniform backlit vinyl boards and digital printouts are rapidly replacing these locally evolved styles of creative signage, underscoring the urgency to document those that have survived.

For the first segment of TyPoCiTy, Rawlley and Rawat scouted the city, collecting a vast number of photographs. Surprised by the number of documents accumulated, Rawlley and Rawat initially divided their research into different categories: transportation (taxi sticker art, licence plate designs), food (restaurant menus, wall signs, and hawkers signage on hand carts), shops, posters/billboards (film posters and political posters), architecture, festivals, technology, iconography (dabbawalla), illustrations, and personal signs. By meeting with the craftsmen and technicians who produced these works, the artists sought to learn about their social and cultural significance and the production techniques used and to explore the design influences and the tradition behind particular styles.

The project thus hopes to create awareness about Mumbai’s typographic heritage and a consciousness of the indigenous design traditions of the city. Because the initial segment of TyPoCiTy documented artefacts from the public domain, the second segment, funded by the Daniel Langlois Foundation, helped in making this research available to the public. The following projects and workshops promoting typographical craftsmanship techniques were organised:

- TyPoCiTy Web site
- Taxi sticker art
- Dabbawalla city code
- Workshop: Architecture as City Text

As designers and composers, Vishal Rawlley and Kurnal Rawat rely on a range of technologies: computer graphics for print and the Web, interactive design, video, photography, electronic music, and installations. In 1998, they teamed up with others to found Grandmother India, one of Mumbai's pioneering graphic design firms. They are also the founding members of Bhavishyavani, an electronic music collective. They have produced award-winning documentaries and Net art projects. As media educators, they have given workshops and developed educational tools. They use their media skills to understand the urban context. After documenting their city's forms and folklore, they reuse the material innovatively and in altered contexts.

Raphaëlle Aubin © 2007 FDL

"Sign of the times: Mumbai's typographical treasures", The Guardian, Avril 9, 2019: