Ilya Ruderman: Lava is a typeface by the Dutch studio Typotheque. One day, its author Peter Biľak decided to issue a culture magazine called Works That Work — tackling the importance of design in the modern world, how design affects completely different parts of our life.
So, especially for this project, Peter Biľak set himself a task: ‘I want a new magazine to have a new typeface’. And defined its personality for himself. He wanted it to be a humanist serif that preserved broad-nib dynamics. For it to have this feeling of delicacy, with not too much contrast. In parallel with working on the typeface, Peter was conceiving the layout of the magazine. He was creating a tool for himself and testing it by himself in this layout. This is how Lava was born — a really beautiful modern serif typeface.
Typotheque is a unique studio that lays much emphasis on multilingualism, multi-scriptness. Almost all of their works pursue maximum language support. Which is why it was impossible to imagine Lava without Cyrillic. Peter Biľak knows many Cyrillic designers, and the typefaces for his collections are designed by entirely different people. This particular project was given to me.
And that was an extremely interesting one, since, historically, Cyrillic is not very good friends with broad nib in the Latin understanding of serif forms. We have our ways to deal with slopes and other formal details, the ones that suit our letters best. Therefore, whenever one translates a Latin typeface to Cyrillic, they always get certain logical inconsistencies.
For example, the letter Ж — which is, according to the logic of Cyrillic, has to have two fat legs and two thin arms, — is literally impossible to be designed like that without changing the slope angle. The leg of the letter Я cannot be fat on its left side, quite the opposite, — it has to be narrowed. That was what was difficult about it: to perform Cyrillic in a way that these tricks would look natural. I had to go against the stream, against the broad nib logic. To construct letters rather than write them by hand.
There is a letter that still buzzles me — whether or not I designed it correctly? — the lowercase б. I tried different ways, seeking to come up with a form not as sharp and kinky. As the style gets bolder, it needs to accumulate some mass on its cap, yet there’s very little space for that. That was a difficult letter. But I got used to it over the years.
Lava is a highly popular typeface in the Cyrillic market. It gets chosen for this feeling of humanity — it works well in a running text, it is pleasant to read, — and for its modernity: Lava doesn’t have this historic aftertaste, as is often the case with serifs. The most vivid examples of using Lava are the Arzamas website, for which we designed the logo, books by Novoye Izdatelstvo, and Afisha media projects of various years, the most alive of which today is Afisha Daily.