The Begum Superfamily

A tri-lingual superfamily with latinized indics

Meet Begum, the Indian Type Foundry’s newest multi-script display super family. Begum is a serif typeface brimming with contrast and supports the Devanagari, Latin and Tamil writing systems. Along with maintaining a visually balanced contrast level throughout the scripts, the indic families are also distinctly latinized with serifs. This aspect is the most characteristic feature of the family.

Begum is different from most of ITF’s previous releases – not because it was conceived as a multi-script super family, but because of its seriffed nature. Many of ITF’s typefaces are sans serifs, monolinears or calligraphically-inspired. Despite serif typefaces’ history – indeed their antiquity – Begum’s appearance is ultra-contemporary. As is the case with many other serif typefaces currently used around the world in Editorial Design work, Begum’s Latin characters share DNA with some of the classic Anglo-Dutch types (Caslon, Fleischmann, Times, etc.).

Begum 02

Editorial Design is now thoroughly multi-media; many publications release their content simultaneously in print, on the web and via Smart Phone apps. Begum’s diversity of intended media is also broader than was the case for many of ITF’s previous releases, some of which were fine-tooled for more specific areas like news tickers or interface design. Since it is a serif typeface, Begum is easily combinable with many other ITF families, including Pilcrow, Engrez and Kohinoor.

In terms of its optimal range of sizes, Begum is a display face. This doesn’t mean that its effectiveness is only limited to headlines, however. Begum’s proportions offer possibilities for many kinds of shorter-length texts, i.e., call-outs, packaging design and the multi-line article introductions that are common in print and on screen. Longer-length texts are more likely to shine in Begum for languages written with the Latin or the Tamil scripts than with the Devanagari script, as Begum’s very high-contrast treatment of the Devanagari base characters is very much in the display tradition.

Begum 01

Despite the obvious latinization-factor of bringing Latin serifs onto Indian scripts, there is quite a tradition in Indian display typography of using Indic letters with seriffed strokes. Especially in the case of the Devanagari script, serif display faces are already found all over the country on billboards, in logos and for occasional headlines in almost every newspaper. Yet before Begum, no typeface had been designed from scratch that included stylistically-matching seriffed letters for both Devanagari and Latin. Text set with Begum in Hindi and English, for example, will match better than combining pre-existing Devanagari and Latin fonts could. This is quite beneficial for campaigns or publications operating in multiple languages simultaneously and gives Begum a leg-up in terms of effectiveness for Editorial Designers working in the Indian market. The Tamil component meanwhile echoes the display typography used in the Tamil literature publishing industry in the early decades of the 20th Century. It bridges history and tradition with contemporary aesthetic choices to create a clear, usable and characteristic display face.

Ponniyin Selvan

Many of the stroke endings in all three of the scripts supported by Begum have treatments that are almost “brushy.” Since Begum’s Tamil characters are upright in their design, the application of serifs to the vertical strokes is relatively unproblematic, and perhaps even less jarring than it could be considered in the case of Devanagari.

For ITF’s customers, the Begum fonts are broken up into script-specific sub-families. Users may license just the scripts that they need – Begum Devanagari, Begum Latin or Begum Tamil (both Begum Devanagari and Begum Tamil each include Latin script support as well). Begum’s Devanagari character set has 765 glyphs, its Latin has 384 glyphs, and its Tamil has 289 glyphs. The Devanagari and Tamil fonts have all of the conjuncts and ligatures necessary for contemporary typesetting needs.

The complete Begum super family was designed in India by Manushi Parikh and released in 2015.