Designer duo create typography inspired by a song on Mumbai’s deadly potholes

They won D&AD's Wood Pencil for it

Monsoons have set in in Mumbai and the city is regularly under sheets of pelting rain. If it was not for the coronavirus pandemic, the city roads would be crumbling under heavy rain and heavier traffic. Newspapers would reporting accidents and deaths on Mumbai roads caused by potholes and road cave-ins. This is no speculation, it has been the situation over years. Every year, the local authorities make a flimsy attempt to fill the pot holes, and a much flimsier attempt to keep the false promises they make during rains.

In 2017, Red FM released a song on potholes on the roads of Mumbai, taking a dig on the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). The Marathi song called ‘Pothole Mix with RJ Malishka’ gained instant popularity, and almost as instantly invited a major backlash from BMC. People retaliated to this backlash by making their own songs, often shot next to massive potholes, creating a tiny but new mini music movement.

Designers Kalyani and Gautam Kamat Bambolkar, took inspiration from these songs to create a typography. The brief was set by Google and Hoffmitz Milken Centre for Typography for D&AD’s New Blood category, and required the contestants to “find a genre, song or musical movement that best represents a cause and use typography to bring it to life”. Kalyani and Gautam decided to express the power of ‘Pothole Mix’ song through typography that best represents the musical movement.

“While working on the brief, I researched musical movements in India and when I saw Malishka’s and other songs on potholes, I knew this could be the concept of my campaign,” says Kalyani. The alphabets were designed to show the road lanes of Mumbai and how potholes have destroyed them. The typeface is based on Google’s Monoton font.

The brief also required the contestants to create a typography-led integrated graphic design campaign. The campaign created by Kalyani and Gautam is called ***hole Elections 2020; the idea of which is to conduct a week-long election in Mumbai, to choose the most deserving corporator for the title. “We believe that it is the **holes, not the potholes, who are behind this menace,” says Kalyani.

Kalyani and Gautam won a Wood Pencil from D&AD for their typography campaign. The New Blood Awards does not have an age limit anymore and is applicable for anyone who hasn’t worked for six months or more in a paid creative role. Kalyani is on a sabbatical and could participate in the awards. She was previously a graphic designer, while Gautam is a user experience designer, currently working in the US.



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