Tonight at Mess Hall the artist Vishal Rawlley will be discussing two recent projects, Typocity and Voice Wave (previously entitled “Legend of the Sea Lord”).

The former is an investigation into the mindbendingly elaborate systems of typography in Rawlley’s hometown, Mumbai (formerly Bombay), including a look at the iconography of dabbawallas, a food-delivery system that makes Peapod look like a high-school bake sale and puts Chicago’s craptacular postal service to shame. Five thousand dabbawallas deliver approximately 175,000 lunch boxes every day all over the world’s biggest city; since many are illiterate, there’s no paperwork involved, only an elaborate system of typographic codes that differ from team to team. With a delivery failure rate of one in eight million, according to Forbes, their efficiency and competency compares to that of companies like General Electric and Motorola.

Part of the purpose of Typocity is simply to preserve the indigenous typefaces of Mumbai, which Rawwley and his collaborator, Kurnal Rawat, see as dying out with the standardization that follows globalization–the triumph of McFonts, if you will–and to encourage their incorporation into contemporary design. Generally this kind of process is associated with languages, but Rawlley and Rawat have extended the concept to the language of design, with an eye toward making modern life more comprehensible by integrating old forms.