Cyrillic Type Design: a Critical Context


There is no universal recipe for designing Cyrillic. That is why here in the blog we would like to emphasise the diversity within the Cyrillic script, rather than propose an arbitrary set of golden rules. A typeface, as a piece of design, is created for a specific purpose, it solves a particular set of problems, obeys certain limitations. Equally, it has to be innovative, it has to create new character. We can’t forget what was done in the past, but at the same time we can’t ignore the present. When dealing with Cyrillic—whether you choose to stick to tradition or be experimental—what is most important is consistency.

Here we would like to pose several questions and hope that our colleagues will be more open to discussion.

Is Cyrillic developing or just following conventions?

Many foreign and native designers feel nostalgic to history. They blindly follow old conventions, whatever typeface they work on. The problem is, we see historical models differently—an existing model in Latin, when applied to Cyrillic, can have a completely different connotation or feel. A typeface stops being respectful to the history, when it becomes a gimmick, an unintended reference to an old and often not very good typography. As the result the Cyrillic looks more Cyrillic than it has to be.

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Some iphone pics from AtypI Amsterdam. This was my first AtypI conference, and it was really great. It was so good to see many of my type]media classmates and teachers again, even though it has only been a couple of months since we graduated.  There were so many good talks, but some of my favorites were Krista Radoeva and Maria Doreuli’s talk on the difference between russian and bulgarian cyrillics cyrillicsly, Frank Grießhammer’s talk yearning for kerning, Verena Gerlach’s talk about the Ala has a pen workshop, Sofie Beier’s two talks on typeface legibility, Frank Blokland on her majesty’s secret scribal service that included a pretty great film featuring Frank as James Bond…. and the talk Peter Verheul did on his typeface for the dutch government. Peter also had a great speach about Gerrit Noordzij when he was beeing awarded the TDC medal.