Project: Guru Gomke
Designer: Pooja Saxena
Company: Matra Type
Team Members: Subhashish Panigrahi
Client: Centre for Internet and Society’s Access to Knowledge (CIS-A2K)
Link: Guru Gomke on Github
Pooja Saxena has designed some really nice Indic script typeface families (Farsan Gujarati and Cambay Devanagari for example), but I want to take a moment to shine a light on one particular project of hers.
Guru Gomke is a typeface family that she designed for the Ol Chiki script. Ol Chiki is an alphabet that was developed in the 1920s to write Santali, a language used in India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal by roughly 6 million people (that’s greater than the population of Norway or Ireland). The Santali-speaking population has historically been marginalized, and few resources have been developed to enable them to type and use computers in their own language.
How few? Well, before Pooja began her work on this project, not a single Unicode-compliant font existed for the Ol Chiki writing system. Zero. Ol Chiki keyboard layouts for inputting the characters also didn’t exist. Recognizing this need, Saxena collaborated with Open Internet activist Subhashish Panigrahi, to develop these tools.
The result of their research, design, and engineering was Guru Gomke – an open-source, free-use font family, as well as browser-based and installable input tools for Santali typing. In Guru Gomke, Saxena designed a regular, a bold, and an italic style that was based on handwritten models.
By boldly venturing into unknown territory, Saxena and Panigrahi have given Santali speakers the essential tools needed to express themselves, to access knowledge, and to seize new economic and educational opportunities. I have the utmost respect for Pooja, Subhashish, and the other designers, engineers, and activists working on marginalized script projects like this.
Thank you, Pooja, for creating such an inspiring – and important – project. I hope you don’t mind me publicly sharing my admiration!