Hand-Painted Signage in Rajasthan

Photograph of hand-painted signage taken in Samode Village, Jaipur, Rajasthan.



Photograph of hand-painted signage taken in Samode Village, Jaipur, Rajasthan.


Photograph of hand-painted signage taken in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan.

When I visited Rajasthan, India last year I found elements of graphic design adorning the streets of Samode Village. I was definitely caught off guard because I didn’t expect to experience such striking signs in every corner and almost every door. I realized that hand-painted signage is still a visual vernacular in this area and used to be in all of India. I come from a city in India where digital and print design has become more prevalent. Even though hand-painted signage can be seen in some areas of my city—the tradition is becoming obsolete as digital printing has allowed for this process to become faster and less expensive.

It was really inspiring to view the quality of typography and the unique lettering of Indian sign painters. Additionally, it was refreshing to experience a landscape that hasn’t been impacted as much by the digital age. The combination of vibrant paints used for the signs, the texture and the evidence of the maker’s hand definitely garnered my attention. Even though I can’t read Hindi, the distinctive signs evoked and emotional response from me in the way in which they reflected the patterns, symbols, and colors of India. It was also interesting to see how signage was painted on aged and decaying walls of world heritage sites. What may first appear as defacement becomes a woven part of the surrounding architecture.

What I began to also notice is that the design of the signs vary within towns of the same region. Similar to how India has twenty two official languages and hundreds of different dialects—there is a distinguishing culture between regions that is reflected within the design itself. A sign board in Bangalore (where I’m originally from) does not look like what I saw in Rajasthan. The similarities of sign-painting across India, however, emphasize exemplary mastery and attention to detail of the draftsmen. On a last note—in a global culture that is becoming more virtual— hand-painted signage in India provided me with and intimate experience and revealed the beauty of a larger cultural tradition.