Centre for Internet & Society

The blog post was published by AIGA.org on November 29, 2016. Subhashish Panigrahi was consulted.

Back story: Ever met a teenaged girl yearning to be a typeface designer? Yes? Then perhaps you know Pooja Saxena, who recognized her life’s calling when she was still in high school. Saxena went on to study with type historian and designer Fiona Ross at the University of Reading in the UK.

The idea for Guru Gomke came from a chat she had with Panigrahi, whose work with the Access to Knowledge (A2K) Program at the Centre for Internet and Society in Bangalore underscored the lack of tools and resources available for India’s minority languages online. For example, Ol Chiki is the alphabet needed to write the language Santali, used by over 5 million people in India and its neighboring countries. “At the time of our conversation, we couldn’t find a single Unicode-compliant font in the script—forget a typeface family with a bold or an italic. [Noto Sans Ol Chiki, in regular and bold, has since been released]. Subhashish mentioned all these minority scripts in India that people can’t use because fonts and keyboards for them don’t exist,” Saxena says. “I was enthusiastic to help create a free open-source typeface family and input methods in Ol Chiki, and thanks to Subhashish’s work with A2K, he was able to make it happen.”

Why’s it called Guru Gomke? Guru Gomke is a title of respect for Pandit Raghunath Murmu, creator of the Ol Chiki script in the early 20th century. The name translates to “great teacher.” It was recommended to Panigrahi by one of the language experts consulted by the designers, and they found it a wonderful nod to the history of the script.

What are its distinguishing characteristics? Its very existence, frankly. It’s now one of just two Unicode-compliant fonts with both bold and italic character sets.

What should I use it for? Next time you need to set absolutely anything in Ol Chiki.

What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? Matched to Source Sans Pro visually and proportionally, these two fonts are visually harmonic used anywhere Ol Chiki and Latin texts have to work together. In fact, the Latin glyphs included in Guru Gomke are derived from Source Sans Pro.