Sign Language Image Credit: Verve
Sign Language Image Credit: Verve

Sign Language

Roaming across Mumbai, Tanya George analyses the cosmopolitan capital’s multilingual typographic landscape.

Take a walk down any street in Mumbai, and you will see lots of letters. Letters on shopfronts, on the sides of buildings, on bus stops and billboards. Some hand-painted, others printed on materials that can withstand Mumbai’s climate, and the neon backlit ones that come alive only at night. All these signs essentially help in identifying establishments and defining spaces. Few, like wayfinding signage, help to do both. The explicit job and function of signage is to respectively communicate with prospective patrons and let people know more about a venue — the name, address and if a shop, what it sells and perhaps other details like its hours. When a shop owner puts one up, they are making an investment to attract more buyers. Subliminally, a sign communicates a certain tone and voice, and it creates an identity for the establishment by communicating its salient features such as, how expensive a place might be, how modern a brand is and whom they see as their potential customers.

Today, in Mumbai, these could be a diverse range of individuals. As the economic and entertainment capital, the city draws people from the rest of the country. They move here not only with their hopes and dreams, but also their languages, and they usually gravitate towards those with whom they can communicate and form communities.

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