Simply Cyrillic

Learning about the Cyrillic alphabet

In the name of trying things for the first time, once a month (or more) we take turns in organising a fun activity for everyone to learn something new. This month’s UF Minister of Culture, Plamena, surprised us with an introduction to the Cyrillic alphabet. She told us the story of the script’s origins and showed us some past and present examples of Cyrillic design.

Have you ever seen those old Soviet posters with backwards R’s and other strange yet familiar characters? That alphabet is Cyrillic, developed in the 9th century by the brothers Cyril (hence the name!) and Methodius. Today in the 21st century, Cyrillic is the written basis for more than 50 languages globally, most famously in Russia, but also in Ukraine, Mongolia and the various -stans, including Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Bulgaria.

Design before and after computers with Cyrillic

We travelled back to the 60s and 70s to discover one of the most significant European graphic designers of that era – Stefan Kanchev. His clear logo compositions use the relation between Cyrillic fonts and shapes and are inspired from Bulgarian folklore and traditions. And we felt like walking through a labyrinth trying to identify the Cyrillic characters in some of them.
We also learnt how the Cyrillic letters sound and even got to interpret handwriting typographically! In Cyrillic handwriting some characters can be written in various ways that do not really resemble one another. Some contemporary fonts like GT Eesti, a free-spirited interpretation of a Soviet geometric typeface, have already thought about it and use alternative Cyrillic designs to illustrate the differences.
– Plamena