Typographer Mukund Gokhale

Sometime back I came across article on Gondi script related work in the newspaper and my memories about Mukund Gokhale came to fore. I had been planning to meet him for quite some time. Finally, got to visit his home last month and was able to chat with him. I wanted to write about this father figure in world of Indian typography and introduce him on this blog.

My association with him goes back to more than 2 decades when I happened to take a job at Institute of Typographical Research(ITR) which was co-founded by Mukund Gokhale along with his colleagues Vasant Bhat and Lipikar S L Wakankar. I was working on multi-lingual word processor for Indian languages. We began with creating tools such as Font Editors for creating Indian language fonts under guidance of Mukund Gokhale.


Mukund Gokhale, image courtesy Printweek

ITR was in business of providing typographical solutions for Indian languages to type-setters, printing press, and type foundries across Indian sub-continent. Mukund Gokhale has been a thought leader in typography for Indian scripts. He contributed to design parameters for Devnagari, developed terminology for Indian scripts, he helped in ancient manuscript analysis in various Indian scripts, usage of frequency evaluation of phonetic and graphic characters while designing type faces, ITR has also been designing types for metal types, photo-typesetters, optic, laser, mechanical and electronic typewriters, letterpress printing and digital systems for a variety of scripts. The ITR team included bunch of other typographers who would design various Indian language fonts, typefaces using Apple Macs under guidance of Mukund Gokhale. When computers were not still common, they would this on paper and would supply those to type foundries or would manufacture their out types and supply to printing press for composing. When computers became common in 1990, ITR had came out with keyboard formats/layouts for Indian languages for Apple Macs and also started designing fonts using them and obviously  Mukund Gokhale continued to be involved there.

Around the same time C-DAC was established and they also had started working on hardware based solution called GIST. designed their own keyboard formats for Indian languages. Their solution along with multi-lingual word-processor made history in Indian language/script typing and desktop publishing before the advent of Unicode and Google. A decade and half later, when I was studying scripts(particularly Bramhi, Kharoshti and their role in evolution in Indian scripts) during my Indology course at Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth(TMV), I was able to realize and appreciate how pioneering work that was by Mukund Gokhale and Lipikar Wakankar.

He has been continuing his work after ITR by way of founding his own organization Script Research Institute. He was awarded lifetime achievement award by Industrial Design Center in IIT Bombay during Typography Day event in 2012.

During my last visit to him, he spent well over 1 hour talking about various things since my early days at ITR, and what all happened since then, about his recent work on Gondi script, his burning desire to come out with state-of-the art multi-lingual word-processor for Indian scripts and also showed draft of biographical work he has penned down on Lipikar Wakankar which will be soon published. It as indeed inspiring meeting him. Similarly, life of Lipikar Wakankar is equally inspiring in the same context again for his pioneering thoughts and work in Devnagari script. Let me stop here by promising that, I will write about him sometime later.


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