Home / About ATypI / Who we are / Elections 2023–24: ATypI board of directors / Board candidate Sumanthri Samarawickrama

Board candidate Sumanthri Samarawickrama

Portrait of Sumanthri Samarawickrama

We asked Sumanthri to tell us everything ATypI members could ever want to know about her. She had much to share.

Please provide us with your bio.

Sumanthri Samarawickrama, a devoted educator at the Department of Integrated Design within the Faculty of Architecture at the esteemed University of Moratuwa, stands as a testament to academic excellence. Armed with a PhD specialization in Sinhala Typography, her academic journey unraveled the intricate realm of type design and its evolution within Sri Lanka. Sumanthri’s unwavering commitment to understanding the practices of type design and its historical trajectory has become her hallmark.

With meticulous research as her guiding light, Sumanthri embarked on a journey to illuminate the historical path of Sinhala letters and typefaces. Her scholarly exploration delved into the evolution of these elements alongside the advent of the printing press and the march of technological progress. Her findings cast a revealing spotlight on the intuitive nature of many existing typefaces, often shaped by the demands of technological evolution. This investigation unveiled a stark reality—a scarcity of formal knowledge in Sinhala typography and typeface design. The consequence of this dearth is palpable in the limited number of original typefaces existing today compared to their prevalence in the pre-digital era.

At the heart of her academic odyssey lies a comprehensive inquiry into the visual intricacies defining each unique Sinhala letter. This exploration significantly enriches our comprehension of the profound nuances encapsulated within Sinhala typography. Sumanthri’s scholarly endeavors have earned international recognition, evidenced by her prolific publications and presentations at prestigious conferences. Her contributions have graced prominent platforms like the 6th Typography Meeting at the University of Aveiro in Portugal, the Face Forward Typography International Conference at the Dublin Institute of Technology, and the esteemed Typography Day conferences held across Ahmadabad, Pune, and Mumbai.

Her influence extends far beyond academia. Sumanthri’s leadership roles stand as beacons of her impact. Notably, she holds the esteemed position of Vice President within the Association Typographique International (ATypI), a testament to her influence in the global typography community. Furthermore, she presided over Sri Lanka’s inaugural International Research Conference on Typography, known as Typoday 2017. Her commitment to fostering academic exchange continued with her leadership in inaugurating Sri Lanka’s first design conference, the Integrated Design Research Conference in 2022. Additionally, her role as the Director of Research at the Faculty of Architecture’s Research Unit underscores her commitment to advancing the field.

In conclusion, Sumanthri’s academic journey is a testament to passion, dedication, and intellectual curiosity. Her research and leadership roles form a narrative of enriching the typography discourse, both locally and on the global stage. As a devoted educator, accomplished researcher, and influential leader, she stands as a luminary within the world of design and academia.

Give us a sentence that perfectly describes your love for type.

My affection for typography is rooted in a commitment to unraveling cultural narratives, weaving history into design, and fostering meaningful communication through the art of type.

Before this year, were you a member of ATypI? If so, when?

Yes, since 2009.

Were you previously a member of the ATypI board, or a country delegate? If so, when?

Yes, I am currently the Vice President.

Describe your experience/involvement with ATypI activities.

Very challenging and exciting at the same time. 

Tell us about your current and past involvement with other type and design organizations.

Sumanthri’s impactful design journey extends beyond academia, leaving an enduring imprint nationally and internationally. In 2020, she joined the Board of the Association Typographique Internationale (ATypI), solidifying her influence in global typography. Earlier, as Sri Lanka’s ATypI Country Delegate in 2019, she exemplified her commitment to her nation on a global stage.

Her dedication to collaboration is evident as an MOU Coordinator. Facilitating partnerships like hosting the ATypI Working Seminars Colombo 2019, Sumanthri fostered discourse in typography. She bridged institutions through Memorandums of Understanding, such as the one between the University of Moratuwa and the Indian Institute of Technology’s Industrial Design Centre (IDC).

Sumanthri’s coordination extended to the 10th International Research Conference on Typography Day 2017, creating spaces for knowledge exchange. As the Student Exchange Coordinator, she orchestrated cross-cultural learning between the University of Moratuwa and IDC in 2017.

Beyond academia, Sumanthri engaged with industries and national committees, promoting Sri Lanka’s packaging sector and connecting research and policy for progress. Her diverse roles depict her as a dynamic design force, enriching the landscape globally and locally.

Describe your leadership experience with other nonprofits and work with conferences, workshops, publications, teaching, or other activities in the type, design, tech, and related communities.

Sumanthri’s leadership is seen through the various roles she’s undertaken in shaping design discourse and fostering collaboration.

Local Host Coordinator: She orchestrated the AtypI Working Seminars Colombo 2019 in partnership with AtypI, FARU, and the Akuru Collective. Held at the University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka, this event convened March 22–23, 2019.

Conference Co-Chair, Organizing Committee (FARU 2019): Sumanthri took a pivotal role in the 12th International Research Conference hosted by the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Moratuwa. This significant event transpired on December 3, 2019, at Homagama—Institute of Technology University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka.

Conference Co-Chair, Organizing Committee (FARU 2018): In the 11th International Research Conference of FARU, held at the Galle Light House Hotel on December 8, 2018, Sumanthri’s guidance left an indelible mark.
Event Chair Person (Sri Lanka Design Week—Design Code 2018): Within the ambit of the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Moratuwa, Sumanthri steered the Sri Lanka Design Week—Design Code 2018, a remarkable event that unfolded in Colombo August 7–12, 2018.

Event Chair Person (Sri Lanka Design Code Research Conference 2018): Another feather in her cap was the Sri Lanka Design Code Research Conference 2018, which Sumanthri guided on August 11, 2018, bringing academic rigor to design discussions.

Conference Chair (Typography Day 2017): In collaboration with IIT Bombay and the University of Moratuwa, Sumanthri chaired the prestigious Typography Day 2017. This 10th International Research Conference, held in Colombo February 23–25, 2017, marked a notable milestone in her leadership journey.

Sumanthri’s steadfast dedication in orchestrating these impactful events showcases her profound influence in nurturing design culture, research, and collaboration in Sri Lanka and beyond.

Why should ATypI members elect you to represent them on the board of directors?

I am thrilled to convey my genuine interest in representing you on the Board of Directors. To me, this role transcends a mere position; it embodies a dedicated mission that I wholeheartedly embrace.

Throughout my typography journey, I’ve held steadfast in my belief in the transformative potential of design. My PhD exploration in Sinhala Typography ignited a fervor for decolonizing design and cultivating an environment that values inclusivity, diversity, and cultural authenticity.

As Vice President and Sri Lanka Country Delegate for ATypI, I’ve actively enriched global typography discourse. Orchestrating events such as the ATypI Working Seminars Colombo 2019 underscored my organizational acumen and commitment to fostering meaningful exchanges.

My pledge is to champion diversity, equitable representation, and pioneering progress. I am resolved to advocate for initiatives nurturing typography’s cross-cultural growth, supporting emerging talents, and upholding ATypI’s esteemed legacy. 

Answers and materials were provided by the candidate as part of their self-nomination for the ATypI board election. Candidate is a paid ATypI member in good standing and agrees to remain so if they are elected.