Ilya Ruderman: In 2009, Perm saw plenty of various things happening: the city was planning to become the Europe’s cultural capital, it opened the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design Development Centre, and even got their own logo in the form of a red letter «П». The art director of this project Artemy Lebedev believed that the city also had to have its own typeface, available to any Perm citizen for free.
The idea was for a typeface to become yet another participant of new visual communication and be used everywhere: in the signature style of street navigation as well as in the design of posters of new and old cultural centres — and, in general, anywhere. Whereby, — and that is important, — we immediately agreed on not to do any archeological research on what is natural for Perm itself — quite the opposite, we wanted to show right away that Perm is a relevant and modern city, bringing its graphics to the international level.
That was the time when I was very much into street navigation and investigated how different cities of the world manage navigation systems. And I was really inspired by the case of London where the entire navigation is built upon the transport system. London bus stops and underground stations — key navigation media — use Johnston, an austere sans serif, yet with nib dynamics. Johnston and Gill Sans are classified as humanist sans serifs, humanist typefaces, yet both are deliberately constructed, with lots of compass work.
It was pretty clear for me right from the beginning that one single typeface won’t be enough to cover all the needs, so I came up with a complicated system, a quite rare one in the Cyrillic world of the moment. I brought together a sans, a serif and slab-serif into one family based on one graphic idea. This made Permian fitnot only for navigation and posters, but also for long printed texts — like, in the local magazine Sol (Salt Magazine) which was also launched back then.
Each of the typefaces came in three styles: Regular, Italic, Bold. I managed to design all nine in about four months. I was invited to Perm, they even hosted an exhibition show of Permian where I presented the typeface. And, even though the entire Perm project has since then been terminated, the typeface can still be seen in use — for example, on the city’s public transport stops.
That said, Permian is still available for free. But, according to the rules, only citizens of the Perm region can use it for free. I am regularly asked by people from other regions ‘Look, Ilya, there is this free Permian typeface. Can we maybe take it? ’ And I respond to that ‘No, guys, technically you can’t. In reality there is no one to catch you in the act, because there is no copyright holder. The rights have been transferred to the Perm Design Development Centre and then terminated together with it’.