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The relatively easy way to find out the quality of a Cyrillic typeface

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Apr. 10th, 2014 | 11:23 pm


This is an English translation of this article.
The first thing I should say is that it is not a manual for designing Cyrillic from scratch. It is a sort of generalizing of the issues which we can face in Cyrillic; so you can compare some Cyrillic to these pictures and make a decision if it is good enough or probably something should be fixed.

Also, it is not the Only Truth or some sacred knowledge. These are just some points from my experience (I mean experience of a native Cyrillic designer focused on text faces) which can be useful here and now. This article contains almost none explanations, I think that for the explanations at least a series of articles should be written (in fact, I’m going to write them but it’s harder than it seemed to me 6 months ago — so the process will be slow, and I wanted first to write some concentrated practical information).

This text presumes that you already have some information on Cyrillic, e.g. you will not try to make б out of 6 or л out of mirrored n (I really saw some examples of it, and this was unforgettable). Also, this is all about Russian Cyrillic, not Bulgarian. I also did not touch specific Ukrainian, Belorussian and Serbian letters, it is a subject for a separate article too. And this is about text faces mostly, the display faces can differ significantly from these pictures.

So let me begin and sorry for my English :)

if you want to test some Cyrillic, either yours or just a Cyrillic font that you have chosen for some purpose,
you should type (e.g. in this field at Myfonts.com)

the combination of letters:
БДабвджклмфя or БДабвджзклмфэя
(you can just copy it from here)
and look attentively at what you get.

Here are the screenshots from about second page at Myfonts.com when you search by the tag “Cyrillic”:

Please pay attention at:

1. The design of certain glyphs.
(question marks may mean something better than strikethrough but still quite undesirable, see also the explanations within the pictures)
the б tail shape:

and so on:












2. The width of characters.
They should look sort of uniform, without conspicuous imbalances, at least in a text face.

balanced widths

balanced widths

imbalanced widths

3. The spacing and overall balance of the line.

This accidental picture shows very well that a “native-designed” line (the first one) looks more even and balanced, e.g. combinations like вд or кл. (Of course I should say that both second and third typefaces are rather good than bad examples of non-native Cyrillic, but the balance still can be improved in them.)

Thank you for your attention :)

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Comments {4}

Nick Shinn

Native-designed Cyrillics

from: Nick Shinn
date: Aug. 8th, 2014 05:54 pm (UTC)

Scotch Modern (bottom example) is a historical revival which stays close to the late 19th-century (Kharkov) original, so it is in fact “native-designed”. However, this non-native revivalist (me, Nick Shinn) did make a few changes which he thought improved it. Most notably, I cut down the bottom right serif in к—which was originally like that of ‘a’—in order to get a smoother кл combination. As in later versions of the didone, Elizabeth and New Standard. Do you think that anachronism was a good idea?

If you are going to criticize a revival, you really should compare it with the original or another revival of the same typeface, not a font in a completely different genre! I challenge you to compare Scotch Modern with “native-designed” didones such as Elizabeth, New Standard, and other digital revivals of 19th century Scotch or Didone typefaces.

Also, it is better to present words rather than alphabets, when one is discussing the overall balance of a line.

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