The Portfolio: Shivani Parasnis’ Extra Bold Italic Type Foundry

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In light of COVID-19’s impact on design programs around the world—and especially its impact on the visibility of student portfolio shows—we’ve launched a series spotlighting portfolios and projects we love.

Shivani Parasnis might be considered an anomaly—instead of a background in art or a related discipline, she comes to graphic design from the world of biotechnology.

After earning her bachelor’s and master’s of science in biotech, she worked for Teach for India and the Institute of Health Management Pachod before entering design with a job at Locopopo. She eventually enrolled at Maryland Institute College of Art’s graphic design MFA program, for which she completed an internship at Pentagram before graduating this past spring under the thesis mentorship of Tal Leming and advisors Ellen Lupton, Jennifer Cole Phillips and Dai Foldes.

As Parasnis details in said thesis, “Extra Bold Italic Type Foundry,” her love of letterforms dates to 2006, when she attended a five-day workshop with Indian calligrapher Achyut Palav a few years before pursuing her BA at Ramnarain Ruia College.

Ultimately, after reading through her analytical and insightful thesis, that biotech background seems far less anomalous.

As she writes,

Over the decades, the practice of type design has surely evolved into more experimental, unusual forms but has also demonstrated a certain closeness to traditional principles of historic typefaces such as Helvetica, Didot or Baskerville. While a lot of these historic typefaces were designed with a very specific purpose in mind, they all seemed to go back to the rigid principles of how a letter must look and behave. Through my research, I started noticing typographic ‘binaries.’ The term binary can be interpreted in several ways, primarily and most commonly in the context of genders. But could there be binaries in typography?

What would happen if we moved away from the core of this galaxy called traditional typeface design and explored and reasoned the design of new typefaces through an analytical lens? How would nonbinary typefaces look?

Parasnis’ 76-page thesis examines that notion, and as part of it, “I designed five typeface proposals that challenge the ideas of traditional typeface design, and explore anatomies that push the binary and inelastic nature of Latin type design to create intriguing letterforms,” she says.

A look at the work follows below. For more from Parasnis, head to her website.