Cyrillization2020 year

Ilya Ruderman: Graphik was designed by Christian Schwartz of Commercial Type in 2010. Schwartz conceived it from the start as a huge family with lots of various styles and subfamilies. At some point he was approached by a customer who asked to complement Graphik with Cyrillic. So, I designed it around 2014. 

Graphik is an immensely popular typeface, a real bestseller. Graphically, it inherits from the glorious Helvetica. Yet it is more modern — namely in its clarity, sharpness, simplicity. I remember how I encountered a problem with the lowercase б — I’d been failing to draw the tail and the terminal in the same clear, easy, sharp manner. And I still sometimes run into our leaked draft versions where the terminal is not cut vertically, but angle-wise. 

One of the first appearances of Graphik and its Cyrillic — even before it was released for commercial sale — was the graphic identity for the British Higher School of Arts and Design (Moscow). In 2015, BHSAD reached our Moscow Design Studio and asked us to create an identity for them, and we used Graphik that was not yet released at the moment — simply taking advantage of the fact that I knew of its existence. Since then it has been used by many brands — such as RBK Group, KinoPoisk, Republic, — and one might even say that it is there to displace, squeeze out Arial and Helvetica. 

Yury Ostromentsky: Let me toss my two cents in about Graphik. I believe this is not just about it being a descendant of Helvetica, but about the fact that it can be (even though loosely) considered a descendant of both Helvetica and Futura. Helvetica is a closed-aperture grotesk, while Futura is a geometric sans. While today, in the early 21th century, both designers and users — meaning the readers — are precisely very much into geometric sans serif typefaces, for their roundness and friendliness. So, Graphik is rounder and more geometric than Helvetica. For example, the dot above the i and the full stop are not square, but round. My guess is that the reason why it’s so popular is because of this fusion of Helvetica and Futura. 

IR: Yes. And then, several years later, this initial huge family got another member, Graphik Compact, which is also available in’s collection. This typeface is a reinterpretation of Graphik’s design in a more condensed version. It has a certain DIN-ness in it, which is represented in rounded elements having small vertical elements.

Around the same time, Graphik started to win over other scripts. First Schwartz released the Arabic version, then Hebrew, Armenian, and Georgian sets started being made — for designing the Georgian alphabet, the project was joined by Yura. 

YuO: One day Christian Schwartz came to Moscow and visited our workplace. They discussed different type topics and issues with Ilya, and between this and that Christian casually asked us ‘Do you know anything about Georgian script? After all, you all come from the USSR’. Ilya pointed his finger at me who was sitting next to them, quietly working on his stuff, and knew nearly nothing of Georgian language except for the word ‘gamarjobat’  — and the fact that Georgian has a different approach to lower- and uppercase symbols compared to Latin and Cyrillic.

But I always liked Georgia, and each time I came there I explored their letters and those fascinated me. Which is why by the time Commercial Type commissioned us to create Georgian Graphik, I already knew a little more about Georgian script and even started to sketch Georgian letters for my own projects, Loos and CSTM Xprmntl 02.  

The key problem with a foreign script for a type designer is that you don’t always feel its graphics and letterforms. So, I had advisors. First I was helped by Tbilisi-based designer Alexander Sukiyasov, later we were joined by two more designers: Akaki Razmadze and Lasha Giorgadze. There is a delicate detail in the story: we were basically ready to release the typeface and showed it to a few designers, Akakiy and Lasha were among them. They noticed several inaccuracies, and we had to postpone the release because of those, to make corrections.  

IR:  But eventually the Georgian Graphik was well accepted. Georgian designers liked that it is well balanced with Latin — one of the main issues with two different alphabets is that one often needs a high-quality typeface supporting two scripts, with two versions to work well with each other. And our Georgian commentators were satisfied in that respect. 

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