Understanding cyrillic letters?

Sebastian Nagel's picture

Dear Typophiles,

is there anything that could help me understanding cyrillic font design and typography (letterforms, proportions, cultural differences, etc.) as a western-europe-guy capable of reading german, english and some dutch?

I've found this one:
http://store.artlebedev.com/catalog/books/design/kniga_pro_bykvy/
and I think I'll buy it if it is available, but I won't understand much, except for the pictures.

Or do you think I should stop thinking about it, as everything I ever could produce just can be inferior to people who "really understand"?

Thanks
Sebastian

dezcom's picture

Is Yuri's book only in Russian or is there an English translation as well?

ChrisL

Sebastian Nagel's picture

Chris: I asked them per e-mail four or five days ago, but got no answer yet...

dezcom's picture

Thanks Sebastian. Let me know what they say?

ChrisL

gthompson's picture

I downloaded the sample pdf a while ago, and was mightily impressed, especially with the serifed text face it’s set in. But is it published yet?

Is Yuri’s book only in Russian or is there an English translation as well?

Yes, it's available, but the shipping is steep and it's all in Russian. It is very impressive and the illustrations are very informative. As for Russian the Wiley / Katzner Russian English dictionary is the only one I've found that has any sort of typographic terms in it. Anybody know of a better one for design and type?

George
I felt bad because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no Bodoni

hrant's picture

> Any plans for a Cyrillic along the same lines?

It depends. For Cyrillic I'd need plenty of "native" advice though. And as I've explained in my Spatium/Hyphen article it's more work adding a new script in a multi-lateral system: you have to make a new master with subordinates for the pre-existing scripts, plus you need to make a subordinate for the new script for each pre-existing script. The good news is that a lot of the process can be mechanized, like how Patria's Roman and Italic sprouted from the subordinate Latin, and how the subordinate Armenian came from the Armenian master.

> I would expect it to accentuate the effect, in parallel
> column setting of Latin and Cyrillic, of the Latin being
> more tightly leaded.

An effect which, especially being "pre-existing" (I mean in the conventional scheme) is best alleviated by giving the Cyrillic a larger "x-height" (which is more significantly justified by the issue of apparent size). On the other hand, there are much worse things that different apparent leading, or even misaligned leading between two columns - for example a Cyrillic that's harder to read because the proportions are off.

> Artemius’ descenders, x-height, sidebearings, and common
> glyph-shapes appear to be the same across the two scripts.

Which coupled with the difference in ascenders makes
the whole too subtle, like a mistake, in your view, no?

hhp

hrant's picture

> Anybody know of a better one for design and type?

ATypI was working on a multi-lingual type glossary - dunno where it's at now.

hhp

hrant's picture

> best alleviated by giving the Cyrillic a larger “x-height”

Or on the typesetting side by setting the Cyrillic slightly
larger in point size (with the same line-to-line leading).
This does introduce color issues (assuming a color-balanced
Latin/Cyrillic system) but not much. In fact color differences
can be used to compensate for script-inherent apparent size
issues (like how Arabic always looks smaller than Latin).

hhp

dberlow's picture

"For Cyrillic I’d need plenty of “native” advice though"

I like this notion. Should that advice come from the Bulgars for whom it was originaly intended? the Moravians who first received it? The Bulgars who exentually received it or the Russ who eventually made it there's. Like, there's only one Cyrillic native?

paul d hunt's picture

Should that advice come from the Bulgars for whom it was originaly intended? the Moravians who first received it? The Bulgars who exentually received it or the Russ who eventually made it [theirs].

All of the above.

hrant's picture

David, I guess pity those who need native advice for Latin. :-)
Or maybe, we all need it.

You could pick your advisors based on potential sales, or number of users, or some other scheme. Fortunately type design is non-deterministic - there's never really a "solution", so you find the best advice you can from as many people as seems reasonable; the best you can do is never better than what your circumstances allow for. As I like to joke: there's always room for improvement... so stop trying! :-)

> Giving the Latin ascenders extra height is a nice touch

This does not jibe {edit - was "jive"} with your previous
view that differences should either be none or obvious.

> In a mixed setting like this caption from the Gordon book, set in
> Artemius Sans, surely having different x-heights for the two
> scripts, and different letter-forms or proportions for the common
> letter shapes (B, C, e, a) would be an unnecessary distraction.

I agree, but only because it's a caption: deliberative reading.
For immersive reading (much better with a serif anyway)
there is no distraction; the subconscious doesn't care.
And the benefit comes through.

hhp

hrant's picture

While frivolous theory can play havoc with other people's practice.

--

BTW, are there other Cyrillic (text) fonts where
the descenders are longer than the ascenders?

hhp

dezcom's picture

ROFL!!!

ChrisL

hrant's picture

You two should make a movie.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0109686/

hhp

William Berkson's picture

>Bill

You rang? Yeah, theory should *adapt* to observation, just as in science. The eye is the final arbiter in type, not the theory--even though I think theory can be a big help. When theory becomes the--ahem--absolute monarch it can do a lot of damage.

hrant's picture

> theory should *adapt* to observation

Nah, theory should adapt to the needs of the artiste, like
his need not to have his opinions exposed as fraud in public.

In The Official Thesaurus of Shinnistan, "flexible",
"convenient" and "self-serving" seem to be synonyms.

--

BTW, for the record, I really LOVED "Dumb & Dumber".
But it certainly helped that it wasn't cast as a documentary.

hhp

paul d hunt's picture

name-calling not needed, let's stick to the topic, hrant.

hrant's picture

A question, for Adam and of course others with good
insight into Cyrillic, and the perceptions thereof:

Do natives feel that the lc looks like a mish-mash of UC and lc forms?* Maybe if only as a result of exposure to Latin? Or is this perception (which I very strongly have) merely an artefact of Latin nativity (and lack of Cyrillic nativity)? And if it's only the latter, how much does that matter? Lastly, if this sentiment is there, even mildly, has anybody done anything about it?

* Not that the two Latin cases don't have that issue - although in Latin
there's the real distinction of case - you don't see much intermixing.

hhp

twardoch's picture

Chris,

Yuri Gordon's book is in Russian only but it's useful even if you don't read a single word in Russian. The illustration and the drawings included there already make it a good investment.

David,

> Should that advice come from the Bulgars for whom
> it was originaly intended? the Moravians who first
> received it? The Bulgars who exentually received
> it or the Russ who eventually made it there’s.
> Like, there’s only one Cyrillic native?

The Russian Cyrillic tradition now has the position of, say, the American Latin tradition. The Bulgarian Cyrillic tradition could be compared to perhaps the Norwegian Latin tradition, or something. I mean, regarding influence.

You're American, David, so you should know that you're the most important guys out there. Same for the Russians in the Cyrillic domain :>

(Only half-kidding)

But it is true that the Russian type designers or consultants, such Vladimir Yefimov or Maxim Zhukov, are often more rigid and orthodox in their views than, say, Jovica Veljović, who is a Serbian native. There was an interesting discussion between them at the ATypI Prague conference where Jovica showed his typeface in progress that showed some unorthodox Cyrillic forms.

Jovica Veljović's Sava Pro is worth looking at. It's small-caps-only but shows some wonderful "brave" Cyrillic capitals.

Adam

hrant's picture

Even more than bravery I think Sava is notable for its sensitivity. The "Y"-shape variance between the three scripts it supports encapsulates what I've said about "anti-identicality".

http://www.adobe.com/type/browser/pdfs/SAVA/SavaPro-Regular.pdf

hhp

dberlow's picture

Dez, would you stop that, please. I mean, at least put some caption(s) indicating who's who. Otherwise it's just gratuitous stooges, (or is that what you mean)?

Paul: All of the above.
I've seen that spec. The mystery left in this work, (regardless of script) is how one weights the choices: geographically, by population density, to a historical time or technology, or etc., so when one making the gross and then detailed decisions, one is targeting something less than all, or looking long at the end of ones own tail. I think, in general, if you want to serve them best you have to design their core glyphs first with a mind clear of your own. I.E we design around our use of our l.c. e.g.

Hrant:David, I guess pity those who need native advice for Latin. :-)
Either I don't understand, or the word pity translates to serve if I say the same thing?
The point is, Latin has been hyper-styled for obvious reasons (massive cultural and ethnic absorbsion plus geographic spread, so, as other scripts are freed to do so, it's of benefit to examine what Latin's done, how and why. No?

hrant's picture

> how one weights the choices

Non-deterministically. Non-Modernistically. As best one can.
Which is always better than either dismissing the issue or running away.

> design their core glyphs first with a mind clear of your own.

Clear? Never! :-)

Concerning Latin what I meant was that if one needed "native" advice the way you worry it needs to be done, one might be in worse shape than for Cyrillic.

If you mean that Latin is more free than Cyrillic nativity-wise, I would agree on a certain scale, but never completely, and because it's used so much more broadly the net issue is at best comparable. For example note the issue of acute/grave accent angles in Polish versus French, or the particular -if nonformalized- preferences in certain African lanaguages that use Latin.

> it’s of benefit to examine what Latin’s done, how and why.

Certainly. Study, but not emulate, not per se.

In the same way that type should study chirography and take away things like stroke contrast, but not because of where it's coming from, but because it's good.

And these two can be combined: in Thai the "traditional" style is monoline, but looking at Latin and being inspired to introduce stroke contrast (as is now done) is a good thing. But being inspired because it's from Latin (and/or chirography) can only bite you in end.

hhp

Denis_Masharov's picture

Type battle Ж
https://www.facebook.com/notes/cyrillic-typography/type-battle-ж/396063967072151

stanev's picture

Right.
Does anyone familiar with Serbian Cyrillic know the "proper" way to design the Dje letter? (Appears as Dje-cy in Glyphs 2). The Wikipedia article uses two versions - with a loop similar to a reversed "c" on the baseline, and with a tail under the baseline- similar to the F clef (Bass clef). As far as I see in various fonts, the "c-tail" version is the more common one. So is it the "proper" one? Or should I include both versions as alternates?

stanev's picture

Ans is it proper to construct the small case "dje" from hbar+j?

Edit
Problem solved: http://www.fileformat.info/info/unicode/char/0452/fontsupport.htm

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