All posts by Kimya Gandhi

Making it Fit! (Devanagari)

Wishes do come true

In 2018 I heard David Jonathan Ross (DJR) give an acceptance speech for receiving a well deserved Prix Charles Peignot. I have always been a fan of David’s work and his presentation only made me more inspired by his exemplary design journey and work ethic. I have had the good fortune of meeting him over the years at various design conferences and I’d be lying if I didn’t secretly hope to collaborate with him someday. Cut to 2021, when on a lazy evening I got an email from DJR saying he would like me to draw a Devanagari companion to Fit, I didn’t have to think twice before saying YES! I love the design of Fit and its use of the variable font technology is just fit-ting (yeah I will use the fit pun more than once in this article, brace yourself) and so began my journey of drawing Fit Devanagari

Why Fit Devanagari?

As someone who grew up in India and studied in a rather conservative schooling system, I was a rather shy and conformist person. Even during some early design years, I heard the phrase ‘but this isn’t how it is done’ and I wasn’t always encouraged to ask why? Later on in the course of my Masters’ studies, I met Prof. Kirti Trivedi and he opened up a whole new world of design thinking and process. Since then, I have always tried to understand and find value in my work—when I say ‘value’ it can be design exploration or solving a problem. So when I started thinking about Fit Devanagari, the question wasn’t  “why?” it was “why not?” 

Over the years I have enjoyed drawing innovative display typefaces that use current font technologies for the Devanagari script. When the opportunity to design a companion to Fit presented itself, needless to say how excited I was to take on this adventure! The Fit family is designed to fit just about any text into just about any space—the extreme masters push the limits of legibility but open up a space for experimentation at a massive scale!

Understanding the scope of the project

As much I enjoyed the idea of creating a fixed counter geometric Devanagari, the fact that it was to be a companion to an existing Latin typeface meant that I needed to understand the design and see if it could naturally ‘fit’ Devanagari into the visual aesthetic before I committed to the project. When designing complimenting multi-script typefaces is it imperative that both scripts be celebrated and none look derivative or the latter ‘Latinised’. There are ways to ensure this and I wanted to draw some consonants and conjuncts to see if this would be possible. After working with the shapes for a while, I decided it was working nicely, so I dove in deeper to create  Fit Devanagari.

Okay if you stuck around to read this long, I will finally get into sharing some insights on the technical process of drawing Fit Devanagari. Fit Latin is designed with straight vertical lines primarily with curves on opposite sides of the rounded letters maintaining a strict even counter space within each other. When starting to draw some of the base Devanagari characters, I began by defining the grid. The Devanagari pen angle is traditionally exactly opposite to that of Latin, and so the placement of the curves on the Devanagari letters is switched.

Maintaining same curve position as Latin makes the Devanagari letters look odd

The masters, as I mentioned earlier, are quite extreme—beginning with the impossibly narrow Skyline style, each character grows by 3600% (on average) to reach the gargantuan Ultra Extended! The process from here was straightforward, adding more and more glyphs starting with basic consonants.

Curve or corner?

Some of my initial character explorations had a lot more curves than the Latin, which made the Devanagari look more tube-y than maze-y which stood out as different from the Latin. DJR and I met regularly, and many of our early conversations revolved around the question ‘can this be a corner?’

It was super interesting to be on this journey of exploring familiar Devanagari letterforms with David who was looking at them purely as shapes. We were able to find solutions together that may have taken me longer on my own—that’s the best thing about collaborations!

Every possible solution 

The construction rules of Fit were easy to apply to some simple characters while in other cases it was quite challenging. I spent days trying to figure the best possible outcome for some characters—the idea was to get the most legible solution that doesn’t go too far from the Fit style. 

The many many options of the letterform त्र

This process also involved looking at existing shapes of the same letter in the wild—old books, type specimens, old movie posters. This research helped me come up with  some non-standard forms that turned out to work very well with Fit’s aesthetic. I am thankful to Noopur Datye, who gave her generous feedback on some of these conflicting letterforms.

Enter: Diagonals

The letterforms from Fit Latin are devoid of diagonal strokes, there are a couple of characters in the Armenian designed by Gor Jihanian that use diagonals in them. However, in Devanagari, I envisioned many characters that would need to have diagonals, especially the rakar forms. I also tried some top matras that were initially made of straight lines, but to make them simpler and accommodate other matras above the shirorekha, they were made diagonals.

Initial straight matras in comparison with the diagonal matras
Rakar Conjuncts using diagonal strokes


Conjuncts are an integral part of the Devanagari script. A complex single conjunct embodies semantic, physical, and phonetic integrity and these are my favourite characters to draw! Initially the repertoire of conjuncts was somewhat of a challenge but with persistence and discussions, Fit Devanagari now has over two hundred conjuncts! I don’t quite imagine someone to typeset Sanskrit text in Fit, but look how fun they look?

Where can I use it?

The design of Fit encourages you to explore variable fonts and create fun typography for almost any use imaginable! Okay maybe not branding for a bank—but it can do lots more—just let your imagination run wild! You can see many examples of where the Fit family has already been used, which includes bags, posters, packaging, branding, book covers and so much more. The vernacular typography in India is not always very experimental  but my hope is that Fit Devanagari will encourage  younger designers to use the Devanagari script in new and fun ways!

I am excited to see some funky Devanagari layouts being created with Fit Devanagari, why should Latin have all the fun? 

Final thoughts

I may say this more than once in this text, but that is because I admire DJR and have enjoyed working with him on this project so much! His involvement in the project has been keen, consistent and empathetic—couldn’t have asked for a better collaboration. If you stuck by and read through this whole post, thank you for your attention! Go ahead to play around with Fit Devanagari and tell your friends about it or better yet; license it!

A New Font Based On Pu. La. Deshpande’s Handwriting

PuLa100 is our custom handwritten font celebrating the legendary Marathi writer Pu. La. Deshpande. You can download & use it for free now!

A Little Back Story

When you search for Purushottam Laxman Deshpande (popularly known by his initials Pu. La.) the main information you find says he was a writer and humorist from Maharashtra. However, this description largely fails to capture the phenomenon that was PuLa to Marathi literature. 

I grew up in a house where my mother, a Hindi & Marathi teacher was an avid reader. She always encouraged me to read Marathi books and Vyakti and Valli by PuLa was the first Marathi book I ever read. I remember being so fascinated by his books and the detailed characters he brought to life through his writing—they were the perfect books for me start with, simple and entertaining. Over the years I have watched many of his performances & plays and his writing still remains relatable and contemporary.  

Book cover for Kotyadhish PuLa from our library

Last year, Gandhar Sangoram from Be Birbal approached me with a project to create a typeface based on the handwriting of Pu. La. Deshpande and I didn’t even have to think twice. It was encouraging and inspiring to hear all the stories and the passion Be Birbal team shared for PuLa and the creation of this font. 

The Design Process

The process was similar to previous handwritten fonts I have created before for Maku and Sharad76. I studied samples of PuLa’s handwriting, that were acquired by Be Birbal from procured from Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune. It was truly a fascinating and memorable experience to read his words in his own handwriting. I reviewed the texts to understand his letterform style in detail. Then selected individual characters were later traced and eventually converted into a digital font.

Scan of Pu. La. Deshpande’s handwriting

PuLa’s handwriting is very peculiar and one can really see the speed at which his thoughts were penned onto the paper. The pre-ruled lines on the page were used as his shirorekha, so he didn’t need to draw the top line on his letterforms — this is a distinct characteristic of this typeface.

Some of PuLa’s writing typeset with the PuLa100 font

PuLa created some very whimsical letter combinations that make me smile as a type designer—and to me, these are the soul of the font. They are unique to his handwriting and the way they are encoded in the typeface they will surprise you with their unexpected quirkiness from time to time.

A few unique letters from Pu La’s handwriting

The Power of Words

This project got me to thinking about the power of words in a world where we are continually scrolling through fleeting thoughts on Instagram/Facebook stories and WhatsApp Status posts. With the convenience of a keyboard and social media at our fingertips, it is easy to just say anything without fully thinking about its consequence or understanding if we truly believe in something or if it is even necessary. 

This project made me pause and reflect about language and literature—how I have read so few books in Marathi over the past few years and perhaps I should start doing that again. PuLa may not talk about profound and complex philosophical thoughts, but his choice of words paint stories of countless characters; they are so simple and poignant and bring joy to his every reader. This has inspired me to read more and maybe spend less time on my phone…

Lastly, it is a nice coincidence that today is my father’s 60th birthday and I would like to dedicate this post to him, who has always taught me the importance of honest words—and to my mother who was a great story teller and used her words to bring happiness to many. I wish my mother was around to see this project, she was a huge fan of PuLa and Sunitabai (his wife—who was herself a writer and a progressive inspiring woman).

I feel grateful for being given this unique opportunity to create this memorabilia typeface celebrating the legend that was PuLa. The PuLa100 font is free to download and to use for non-commercial work from Be Birbal.

Download PuLa100 for Free

The Making of Chikki


Chikki started as random sketches made during a presentation at a type conference several years back. I have been consumed with the idea of drawing a Devanagari display typeface for a long time now and this no-curve design was an exciting starting point. I imagined it could be quite versatile – it could work for both funky graphics and also for setting more text. In May 2018 I started to digitize and rework the sketches.

Digitizing the Devanagari

I usually begin drawing the Light and Black weights for the Devanagari simultaneously. When drawing Devanagari, it is important to make decisions about stroke contrast in extreme weights at the start of a design because some characters can get really dark. I start with a few simple shapes and some complex akhand conjuncts to figure out proportions early on. It is also useful to draw letters with different characteristics — angles, loops, knots, connections, etc.

Even though Chikki is not made with a traditional reed pen, I wanted to add subtle classic features of the Devanagari script to the stroke contrast and axis. By doing this, I could establish a visual grammar and expanded the character set to the 877 Devanagari characters that the typeface has.

Drawing the Latin Letters

The Latin was drawn much later, to compliment the nearly-completed Devanagari. This is my first extended Latin design, and even though Latin is the script I use the most in my design practice, drawing the letterforms was quite challenging.

I started with drawing base Latin glyphs and our intern, Salomi Desai, helped with making the accents, punctuation, and symbols. But for a long time I wasn’t entirely happy with the overall feel of the Latin. It seemed to be missing cohesiveness and the punch that the Devanagari delivered.

Having another set of eyes look at a typeface is always nice, so I decided it was time to seek some help. I am extremely grateful to David Jonathan Ross and Inga Plönnigs for being ever so generous for giving me critical feedback and providing fresh perspectives on the design. Thanks to their suggestions, I’m very happy with how Chikki Latin has turned out!

Once I was more content with the look of the Latin, we began expanding the characters to include wider language support. Rob revisited the accents and added a whole lot of new glyphs — ten sets of numerals, case sensitive alternates and language specific punctuation, to name a few. After much testing and many iterations, the typeface was finally ready to be set out in the world.

The very last step was generating Chikki as a variable font (Mota Italic’s first variable font!). If you don’t know about this new format yet, John Hudson wrote a pretty comprehensive article that I recommend checking out. You can test Chikki Variable on Nick Sherman’s great site Nick pointed out to us (I haven’t checked this thoroughly) that Chikki is the first commercially available Devanagari variable font! So go check out all the cool features of this typeface and license it here!

A Note on the Naming

I find naming fonts very tedious, it’s one of my least favorite parts of the type design process. My last typeface Maku, was relatively easy to name, the design is a stylized version of my own handwriting… it was called Maku because that is the name my mom would call me by when I was younger.

So with Chikki, I was looking for a name that reflected the “crispness” of the typeface. One random evening while I was sitting and working on the fonts, probably hungry and thinking of food, I thought of Chikki! Chikki is a hard, crunchy Indian sweet, that when you bite into makes these sharp edges that remind me of the nibbled-off corners of the typeface. And just like that it fell in place!

Click here to see more about Chikki.

Chikki Diwali Celebrations

As a teaser and preview of our upcoming typeface Chikki, we decided to do a fun, festive collaboration with some of our favourite Indian graphic designers and illustrators. The idea was to have these designers create images for Diwali using Chikki in their own unique way. We posted these images from our Instagram account and it we were super thrilled to see Chikki being used in so many different ways.

Ananya Khaitan

Lokesh Karekar, Locopopo Studio

Pavithra Dikshit

Pranita Kocharekar.

Shreya Arora

Tanya George

& this one was from us!

We would like to thank all of these wonderful designers who graciously participated in this collaboration!

Indian Design Week in Israel

I have always been intrigued by Israeli culture and cuisine, so when an email appeared one day inviting me to conduct a workshop at the “Indian Design Week” in Jerusalem I jumped at the opportunity! This impressive event was hosted by the Bezalel Academy of Arts, and was made possible mostly thanks to the amazing organization of Anat Katsir. For the last three years, the Bezalel Academy has hosted an international design week, inviting designers from different countries to share their work and conduct workshops with the Visual Communication students. I was fortunate to be a part of this event, alongside five other Indian designers: Dr. Rathna Ramanathan, Dr. Nina Sabnani, Lokesh Karekar, Ranganathan Krishnamani and Madhav Nair. The Bezalel Academy & the workshops were incredible, traveling in Israel & experiencing the local culture was unforgettable, and all the warm people and delicious food were the best!

The Type Workshop

My workshop was aimed at appreciating and celebrating the diversity of scripts from India and eventually creating a typographic dialogue between Hebrew and Devanagari. We started the week with an overview of Indian scripts from different parts of the country — a visual type journey through India!

The first activity was to sort the many scripts/letterforms from India – full credits for this game go to Fiona Ross.

We then focused on looking specifically at Devanagari letterforms, understanding the anatomy, practicing handwritten and calligraphic letterforms with some help from our Devanagari Funbooks and Ek Type’s calligraphy manual.

The students then learned how to write their names in Devanagari (which turned out to also be a useful exercise for me – I got to memorize everyone’s names by transliterating them!).

Self-Directed Projects

The students were getting introduced to a completely new script, so no specific final outcome was defined at the beginning. They were encouraged to create a bilingual typographic object (2D or 3D) that came from a concept or experience that they associate with India. To my surprise, many of the students had traveled to India, and that informed their expression of what they wanted to say in their final design. Some started with words, some with personal experiences, some with visual inspirations; they then thought of an appropriate medium to represent their idea.

The Final Exhibit

The atmosphere on the last day at the school was electric, as the students displayed their work in each workshop, and opened doors to the public. The final exhibit was a wide variety of different thoughts– some serious, some funny and some incredibly beautiful. I was overwhelmed by the hard work this talented group put in just in a matter of four days. Here are some images from the exhibition. 

And if you can read Hebrew, there is an in depth article about my workshop over at the Israeli xnet design blog. Thank you to Oded Ben Yehuda for the interview and write up!

Getting Inspired

Being so immersed in the Hebrew script for this week I quickly began to appreciate the beauty of the Alef-Bet so I’ve started learning the Hebrew script (Rob also began work on a new Hebrew typeface for an upcoming release!). This is some of my practice in my room after the workshop – please ignore how I completely forgot to do it right to left!

A big thank you, to Anat, her team and the most importantly the students, whose relentless efforts made this week so intense and very enriching. I also thank all my fellow presenters, I could not have imagined a more fun group to do this with! I cherish these memories we made together and I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity.

Thank you also to Gal Sonnenfeld for being a great assistant throughout the trip.