Saturday, December 13, 2008

Lost in Translation?

My interest in typography often makes me observe signboards. Especially, how the company names are translated in local languages on neon signboards.
Bangalore requires that the sign boards be displayed in kannada along with English.
While the sign boards in English are well thought and designed, when they are translated to Kannada or Hindi they forget to carry forward the visual, specifically the type treatment of the original logo. Very few signboards redesign the structure, form, proportion and font metrics of the local script to match the original.

Eg: the below logo in Kannada just italicizes a common font in that language. It also misses the green leaf which is part of the logo. Ultimately, it is unable to visually translate the brand into the local language

This logo forgets to carry the font weight of the original logo

Many times, the translated logo, either in Kannada or Hindi seem to exist only to please the law enforcing authorities. So they are predominantly smaller in size and placed in a corner.

There are few logos which translate their visual identity very well. Below is one of my favorite.

Some may argue since the main logo is in Kananda, a lot of thought might have been put to carry the type characteristics to English.

Another logo which tries to translate(the English neon signboard is also on green background) -

However, most of the companies can also invest in finding or even creating new type in local languages which match the type of the original logo. It ultimately helps carry the brand to the local consumers.

But why does translating the type treatment matter? Simply because logos are a visual depiction of the brand. And the brand carries the company's vision and all that it stands for. Hence, it is imperative to have similar type treatments across various scripts.

p.s. The above comments are only limited to typography and have nothing against the company or brand

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Spell Check Disaster: 'Anshuman' becomes 'Inhuman'...

Recently, when one of my friend mistakingly applied spell check on a widely used mail, the person to whom it was addressed to - 'Anshuman' , was changed to 'Inhuman'.

This incident shows how features in applications which are supposed to make our job easier can actually create havoc (just imagine if Anshuman were his boss...oops!) Also shows the lack of geographic and cultural adaptability of popular applications. Asians, especially Indians form a significant proportion of users of these applications globally. However, only few Indian names are recognized.

Here are few recommendations on how this can be improved-

  • Design applications which can provide geographically and culturally appropriate spell check based on the selected country

  • Have a database of certain disaster words which double checks when used. Eg: provide message which suggests 'Are you sure you want to change it to 'Inhuman'? This may be irritating, but can definitely save all those embarrassing moments.