April 16. 2021 | 743 words | 3-minute read
Of the many quotable quotes that JRD ‘Jeh’ Tata gave us during his lifetime, one that truly resonates with his personality is “Live life a little dangerously”. An astute businessman, a passionate aviator, recipient of the Bharat Ratna, and a prolific letter writer, JRD Tata donned several hats effortlessly.
As the longest serving Chairman of Tata Sons, the leader accelerated India’s development through various endeavours in aviation, medical research, technology and innovation, and arts.
Under his guidance, the Tata group diversified and dared to take on projects that seemed ‘dangerous’ for business back then. But he stayed on course with his spirit to live life on his terms and challenge the norm. The companies and institutions he started have contributed to the country's growth and progress and continue to make strides in their independent industries, even today.
This daresay attitude reflected in JRD Tata's stylised handwriting, which is highly conspicuous across the over 40,000 letters he exchanged during his lifetime. Apart from regular correspondence with his family, friends, associates and colleagues, he also penned letters to several contemporary leaders. It is said that he never let even a postcard addressed to him go unanswered. Owing to his busy schedule, JRD might have replied late but reply he always did, and his letters were filled with inspiration, anecdotes and memories.
To commemorate his passion for writing letters, the social media team of Tata Sons decided to design a digital font inspired by JRD Tata’s handwriting, thereby preserving his memory in each letter of the English alphabet. This would give future generations a piece of history. Somewhere we hoped this would ignite the love of letter writing, albeit digitally, in the hearts and minds of millennials.
Crafting the Jeh font
To create the Jeh Font, a handwriting expert and members from the social media team combed through thousands of JRD Tata’s handwritten letters to recreate his iconic handwriting as a digital font. They crafted each letter of the alphabet to match the original script. From letter formation and connecting strokes to the spacing and slant, the minutest aspects in his handwritten letters were analysed to ensure the font did justice to his longhand.
After months of hard work, the Jeh Font was launched on JRD Tata’s 116th birth anniversary on July 29, 2020. This was something the Tata colleagues looked forward to amidst the lockdown and working from home.
JRD Tata was endearingly called Jeh by his family, friends and associates. In fact, the signature, Jeh, was quite prominent in most of his letters, according to the team that sifted through his letters. There couldn’t have been a better way to immortalise the legend but to name the typeface — the Jeh Font — after his loving nickname.
Like many events and activities in 2020, the launch was thoughtfully kept digital. A special webpage was hosted on the Tata group website along with a social media campaign to coincide with the birth anniversary posts of JRD Tata.
“JRD Tata has been an inspiration for his peers and generations to come. Every year, on his birth anniversary, we try to keep his legacy alive by talking about all the things that made JRD Tata the phenomenal industrialist and human being he was. This year, we sought to immortalise his handwriting by introducing the Jeh Font. After several months of analysing his handwriting through the 40,000+ letters he had written in his lifetime, we (with the help of experts) devised this font. A small effort to bring alive a stalwart of a man,” says Harsha Ramachandra, AVP, Group Corporate Communications, Tata Sons.
The font was available for download on the webpage, while keeping copyright issues in mind. The social media campaign, titled #JourneyOfJeh, traced JRD Tata’s journey through stories and snapshots from his personal archives. It depicted the fascinating life of JRD Tata, never-seen-before photographs and highlights of his career through a decade-wise timeline. The posts, which used the newly carved Jeh Font, created quite a flutter on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.
The group companies extended their support by sharing the font on their respective intranets and social media handles. Tataworld.com played an important role in disseminating this news to our 750,000+ Tata colleagues across group companies.
With several Tata group companies reaching out to use the font on their websites and merchandise, this is just the beginning of a memorable journey — a journey of remembering JRD Tata yesterday, today and tomorrow.