ICD: Enhancing Expression through Design

New Delhi [India]: With the digital revolution, the demise of the printed book has been predicted. Again. Each time, it was wrong, and the relevance of the printed book remains.

Books are objects we can see, touch, and feel. The feel of paper and ink is beyond anything the screen offers. With books, we develop relationships. We can see them without ‘searching’ for them, like friends. They are treasured and cherished.

The creative design of books is crucial to achieving this. A tribe of specialist designers has arisen, which nurtures and promotes this art, producing objects of power and significance.

The Delhi-based multidisciplinary studio, Itu Chaudhuri Design (ICD) is a prominent member of that tribe. ICD’s design of ‘Cups of Nun Chai’, a unique book on Kashmir reveals what goes into the making of such pieces of art.

‘Cups of Nun Chai’ is an unusual book that cannot be categorised; it blurs the lines of a book and an artwork, becoming a symbol of resistance.

‘Cups of Nun Chai’, authored by Alana Hunt and published by Yaarbal Books is a collection of personal stories that chronicle the life and death of individuals killed in protests in the Kashmir valley during the summer of 2010. The stories for the first time appeared as a newspaper series in Kashmir and then as an exhibition and finally culminating as an unusual book.

In 2010, Alana Hunt observed the normalization of death from political violence in Kashmir. She talked to the families of the 118 dead, as well as others about each, over ‘Cups of Nun Chai’, a ‘pink’ salted Kashmiri tea that’s a daily ritual, a time for news and grief, joy and gossip. A shot of each of the 118 cups marks a conversation.

ICD likes to work closely with its clients. Throughout the project, they had many design directions to try and push the boundaries of designing for a volatile subject such as this. This design finally arrived at what made the author most comfortable and echoed her visions for the book.

The layout blends the personal and public lens to Kashmir. A collection of newspaper scans, advertisements calling out for peaceful protests around the State, breaks with details of the dead. ‘Cups of Nun Chai’ marks each conversation. A reminder of their grief and personal loss, and transforms into a unique and personal memorial of civilian deaths in Kashmir.

The book is stained ‘pink’ taking after the tea’s distinct color, the unifying thread of these conversations. The cover pictures the salt (nun), essential in making nun chai, made to appear like water washing over stones, a symbol of the valley.

“Alana’s narration of what is happening in Kashmir Valley was stoic, calm yet one cannot miss the pain and anger she felt while writing and documenting”, says Lisa Rath, Principal, ICD. “The design tries to echo the same sentiment. Tight visuals, with due respect to her photographs and text, the design pushes the boundaries of visually narrating the plight of those who have lost their dear ones in the Kashmir conflict.”  “A novel way to design a novel”, she says.

Going deeper, she explained behind the design of the book, “Interruptions and visual breaks with nun chai pink pages for the introduction, nun chai pink stain for the Kashmir map, and intense black sections for the preface and afterward of the book—treated as a break and a pause. With names of each of 118 dead, the place and date of death, the pull-outs make the reader stop and ponder on the atrocities of power. All this gives the book the desired gravitas”.

Itu Chaudhuri Design brings powerful design and original thinking to help clients succeed in the marketplace. It offers services in branding, identity, packaging, communication, and digital product design.

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