He is the man behind the distinct ₹ symbol.
D. Udaya Kumar was just a day or two away from starting his new job in the Department of Design at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Guwahati, in 2010 when he won a national contest to design a symbol for the Indian rupee. His design, which incorporated elements of the Devanagari and Roman scripts, was selected from among hundreds of entries to represent the Indian currency.
Mr. Udaya Kumar, who is now associate professor and head of the Department of Design at the Guwahati IIT, was speaking to The Hindu on the sidelines of Ka Cha Ta Tha Pa, the ongoing National Calligraphy Festival of Kerala, at Shanghumughom here on Tuesday.
Mr. Udaya Kumar says the competition guidelines were very specific that the rupee symbol should respect Indian culture and tradition. India was a very diverse country and no one thing could really represent it, he felt. How to incorporate this diversity in the symbol for the currency was a big challenge.
He spent a lot of time researching, from history to the modern times. Initially, he started with graphic elements, but then moved to scripts for he thought it could best identify the country. The Devanagari script, he thought, was especially unique.
After a lot more exploration and research, he hit upon the Devanagari ‘Ra’ for rupiah and the Roman ‘R’ for rupees in English and blended them. The symbol thus got an identity that was distinctly Indian but universal at the same time.
The days following his win were something he would cherish all his life. Since then, Mr. Udaya Kumar has designed logos for a number of institutes and organisations such as the IIT, Hyderabad, and the National Testing Agency.
He says it changed his thinking and opened his mind in terms of curriculum and teaching. It was then that he decided to pursue his Master’s and PhD in Design from the IIT, Mumbai. He Mr. Udaya Kumar, who has a degree in Architecture, says he has always been sure that he wanted to become a designer and a teacher.
His desire was to work with Indian scripts, particularly Tamil, his mother tongue, and contribute more to it. His MDes projects and PhD were also on the Tamil script. Though it has been difficult to pursue his passion being based in Guwahati, he tries it whenever possible.
The Design department at the IIT, Guwahati, he says, is unique; that was the first IIT to start the BDes (Bachelor of Design) programme and PhD in Design.
And it is here that he tries to understand and motivate students and get them to think out of the box and make changes in society for the better.