The Project :

TyPoCiTy is a project that documents rare and interesting instances of typography in public spaces of Bombay. These typefaces are then examined and categorised from the point of view of graphic design and social significance. The project also endeavours to generate social consciousness about these typographic designs through exhibitions and workshops.

Signboards cover the entire building in a commercial precinct of Bombay.

The city of Bombay is a mill of wealth and glamour. The frenetic energy and exuberant style of the city is reflected in the multiplicity of signage forms that dominate the visual landscape. These typographic signs, from different periods, are a document of the social and cultural history of the city. Conveying beyond the literal meaning of the texts, the typefaces reveal the influences and aspirations that drive the city. Bombay has an impressive variety and range of these typographic forms.

In recent years, the influx of globalization has pushed Bombay into a new phase in its development. This transition can be seen in the rampant transformation of the city's visual landscape. Besides the changing architectural spaces, the plethora of advertising and corporate branding, that now litter the city, are the most grotesque of these recent makeovers. Most of these 'plastic signboards', that are replacing the old signage forms, are in total disregard to the ethos of the city.

This project, therefore, urgently documents the dying typographic forms and attempts/ suggests strategies to synergize the aesthetic values of these styles with contemporary design practice. The project also tracks the evolution of interesting contemporary typographic fashions that are characteristic of the new identity of the city.


Historical Overview:

Bombay in the 1880s

Bombay in the 2000s

Influential factors in the development of the city's character:

From 1857, with the opening of the first cotton mill during the British rule, the city of Bombay began to take shape. When cotton exports from the USA were interrupted by the Civil War, Bombay gained paramount importance in the world cotton trade. There was a rapid increase in the number of mills, which spurred large-scale population migrations to Bombay. The city also prospered as an international port with the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. In the 1880s civic administration and city planning, was introduced by the British. The oldest areas of the city are therefore characterized by colonial influences and the regional flavours brought in by the migrants. The prosperous industrial period was in decline by the 1950s and most mills shut down by the 1980s. The transition from a hardware to software economy had begun.

The growth of Bombay also coincided with the development of the cinema. Bombay till date is the largest producer of films in the world. Cinema first came to Bombay in 1896 and rapidly proliferated in the thriving city. With the introduction of sound in cinema and the setting up of the studio system in the 1930s, the film industry saw an economic boom. This however attracted a lot of independent producers who lured the actors out of the studio system with huge sums of money and the era of the cinema star was born. From the 1950s till the 1980s was the golden period of Bombay cinema, producing the major stars and blockbusters. Bombay was thus established as the glamour capital of India in addition to being the commercial capital. This image of Bombay further attracted migrants from diverse regions, leading to the creation of this multi-textured metropolis.

However, by the late '80s with the coming in of video and television cinema began to lose its status as the dominant form of public media. Bombay, by then, was a congested and overpopulated city with a failing infrastructure. With the opening up of the Indian economy in the early 1990s, Bombay entered its new phase of transition. 21st century Bombay is a city that is part transformed and in parts decaying.


Credits/ Contact:

A Bombay precinct (mid 1990s) covered with film posters


> This website is a detailed overview of the TyPoCiTy project. However, information has been streamlined for the web medium.
> The three menus above are the three main sections of the project. The menus list the categories within each section.
> Although information on the website follows a certain chronology, different sections can also be accessed in a random order.
> The floating panels on each page can be rearranged to create individual layouts and promote interactive navigation.

Vishal Rawlley (vishal@bombay-arts.com)
Project Concept, Project Proposals, Grant Applications, Photography, Research and Writing, Website Design

Kurnal Rawat (kurnalrawat@yahoo.com)
Project Concept, Additional Photography, Research and Presentaton Design, Additional Project: Dabbawalla Iconography

Danesh Antia
Field research, Photography and Design for the Dabbawalla Iconography project

Gyaltsen Lama
Presentation Design and Graphics

Abhinandita Mathur
Additional Photography

This project has been made supported by: Sarai, New Delhi (www.sarai.net)
and Daniel Langlois Foundation, Montreal (www.fondation-langlois.org)