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Shiva Nallaperumal: Typographic Expression

Shiva Nallaperumal: Typographic Expression

Forbes 30 Under 30: Meet Shiva Nallaperumal who hails from Chennai, his work is rooted in storytelling and processes. Coupling graphic design thought with typographic craftsmanship. He has traveled far and wide to expand his interest in typography and graphic design. Through his raw talent he has managed to nestle himself within leading agencies, studios and foundries such as Pentagram (NYC) and our homegrown heroes Indian Type Foundry. Now freelancing back in his home town, we caught up with Shiva for a geeky trip into all things type.

KS: Give us a brief backstory of you choosing Design as a career?

Shiva: I got into design through a love for narrative art — comics and cinema. I actually wanted to become a comic book artist or an animator and was guided to applying to design school as a way to learn animation. I really had no idea what graphic design was at the time. In my foundation year at DJ Academy of Design (Coimbatore, where I did my undergraduate course in Communication Design), I really found myself, so to speak. Typography and Graphic Design took precedence to animation and there has been no looking back since.

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Whatever we are doing, letters and content are what we see the most on a day to day basis — on our various devices, on the streets, newspapers etc. Content is communicated through typography. I felt it was fascinating that we could communicate through something as basic as that: the shapes of the letters that people read. Designing type is interesting because of how constrained it is. The ‘a’ should, in the end, look like an ‘a’ otherwise it becomes illegible or loses its semantic meaning. So I’m really just playing with a very strict system and trying each time to explore the same things in a different way. Once I started designing type for real, I fell in love with its complexity and mundanity. It's meditative to sit and toggle bezier handlers (nods that are used to shape a font's form)  for hours and hours. Coming back to my love for storytelling, it never subsided even after leaving animation and continues in my other work today. It is the basis of everything I do, whether it’s a typeface or an exhibition.

KS: In the 6 years of you having being a practicing designer, any key moments or highlights you that stood out for you?
  • Designing Labyrinth with Tal Leming. It has been the longest project I've ever worked on and the most influential. It also gave me the opportunity to work with Typotheque.
  • Working with artist Paul Rucker on two of his major exhibition projects: Empathy Project

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  • Interning with my hero Abbott Miller at Pentagram in the winter of 2014.
  • Working with Indian Type Foundry: working with the best type designers in our country. ITF was established in 2009 by Satya Rajpurohit and Peter Biľak to design and distribute fine-quality fonts for both Indian and the global market.
  • Presenting my typeface projects after the prestigious Catalyst Award from the Society of Typographic Aficionados (SoTA) for type design and the opportunity to speak at Typecon in front of many people who’ve influenced me in various ways.

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Typecon 2015 in Denver USA

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Top: From Kulture Shop @ Design Yatra 2015 - Create Something Collaboration
Right: “aa” by Shiva with a touch of cheeky wit by Hanief with the eyes added straight after. Now that’s the spirit of collaboration!

KS: Across the various types of design projects you take up, which medium is your favourite and why? Any mediums you look forward to exploring?

Shiva: I mainly work in the digital medium, Type design especially. But two analogue mediums that I really enjoy are Screen printing and Stencil+Spray painting, both of which I haven't explored since college. I look forward to getting back to them. A medium that I've never tried but am very curious about is Linocuts.

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KS: It's always exciting to know what an artwork means to the artist, can you talk to us about any one of the works you are retailing with us?

Shiva: The "8" piece I've done for KS is a special one. It is the first use of my experimental, quasi-intelligent typeface Labyrinth (working title), a font I've been working on with my mentor Tal Leming for over 3 years now. It is inspired by geometric Kufic calligraphy style and powered by advanced opentype features to enable its interlocking letters. Each letter adapts itself to the letter typed before/after it. Making unexpected wordblocks and patterns. The 8 is made up of just typing "LLE" around a path. Labyrinth will release soon from Dutch type foundry Typotheque.

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Seen Here (L-R): T-Shirt design submitted for Kulture Shop's Typography Theme morphs itself around Kulture Shop's products creating an interesting bold monochrome patterns.
Photo Credit: Priyanka Mehta

Making unexpected word blocks and patterns. The 8 is made up of just typing "LLE" around a path. Labyrinth will release soon from Dutch type foundry Typotheque.

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Top: 12345 Greeting Cards, Zero Mugs, Goa Art print and Khoon Ki Baarish T-shirt

KS: What are you up to now? Any interesting things your fans should watch out for?

Shiva: There are several ongoing projects: I’m working on the branding and campaign for the Arcasia Awards for Architecture 2017. I’ve also started teaching, and returned to my alma matter (at DJAD) and took a course on experimental publication design.

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Working on several typefaces: My first serious text serif, a family of sans serifs that includes a monospaced variant and a Devanagari version and two stencil typefaces  One brutal and the other playful. And of course, plenty of new things for Kulture Shop!

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Going freelance in 2017 has been liberating. I love working on multiple things at the same time and let each one feed off the energy of the other, which was not possible in an office environment. Especially when I want to create a very plural practice in terms of projects, it has been great. It also gives me a lot of time to pursue personal projects.

KS: What sets you apart as a typographer?

Shiva: I have always been interested in varied things. Illustration, graphic design, publications, typefaces...And have always aimed that my work should reflect this: That one doesn’t have to be constrained to a certain field with its limitations. I feel these different fields are tools of communication and all tools one is interested in are equally important to know. I enjoy the plurality of such a practice. My website was designed to show this aspect.

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Orwellian began as an experiment in trying to interpret themes from George Orwell's classic "1984" into a typeface.

Two people I admire who have mastered such a practice are WA Dwiggins (Graphic Designer, Typographer, Letterer, Type Designer, Puppet Maker, Graphic Design pioneer… and also the guy who coined the term “Graphic Designer”) and Satyajit Ray (a master film maker, graphic design pioneer in India, illustrator, musician…). These guys were not your regular jack-of-all-trades, but masters of these various fields and wielded this power to communicate in the most interesting ways.

KS: What advice you would like to give someone who is planning on becoming a Type Designer?

Shiva: I would ask them to not rely on trends and to look into the theoretical aspects of type while perfecting the craft. Type Design is as much craft (reliant on the technical production) as it is designed. Both these aspects, the thinking and the making, are crucial to making a well-rounded typeface. Many designers today detail their processes in engaging process essays (Typotheque, Klim, Ohno Type, Lost Type etc) that prove to be very helpful to young designers. There is so much discussion around type today on blogs and websites which are really great too (Typographica, Alphabettes etc.).  It is also very important to learn about the history of typography and type production, book making, printing and editorial design.

Check out Shiva's various fonts.

Enemy (Losttype) 2014 Orwellian (Losttype) 2014 Pancho (ITF) 2015 Khang (ITF) 2015 Trench Sans, Slab & Rounded (ITF) 2016

Find Shiva Nallaperumal on Kulture Shop.

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