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Ralf Herrmann

Designing the Cyrillic Er

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Ralf Herrmann

CfSMYkLW8AESg74.jpg

 

As a follow-up to these tweets: I am very curious about @Hrant Papazian’s comment regarding the Er letter. Can Hrant or someone else explain why this is a good design for this letter? And would this be applicable for any modern cyrillic alphabet?

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Hrant Papazian

Not sure if anybody else would explain, since few people seem to agree.  :-)

Basically I think identity hinges on contrast, and not looking like a Latin "P" is something an ideal Er does. As Riccardo's example shows there have been historic examples; sadly with Modernism most designers have come to see such an Er as old-fashioned... so I guess to some extent that's become true. However I believe text fonts can bypass such conscious prejudice, and leverage a useful feeling of cultural authenticity among readers.

See this thread: 

Also: 

 

And some playful speculation: 

 

That second Twitter reference concerns the one place giving the Er a round top-left seems like a no-brainer to me: the Ruble symbol. Besides being safely non-alphabetical, a Ruble symbol that looks Latin does not give the right feeling...

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Hrant Papazian

One more Twitter thread worth considering: 

 

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Ralf Herrmann
On 7 April 2016 at 7:31 PM, Hrant Papazian said:

Basically I think identity hinges on contrast, and not looking like a Latin "P" is something an ideal Er does.

But why? :smirking-face:
Cyrillic has Latin (and its roots) in it anyway. It can’t be denied. So why should there be a “forced” difference in the Er, but not in the Es for example. This difference being a historic variation doesn’t automatically make it desirable for today’s typefaces unless you want to make a revival that is close to older fonts which had that feature. 

But I know too little about that history anyway. How common was that design in the past?
And I am still curious about its suitability today. But for that we would need some comments from type designers from countries such as Russia. 

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Riccardo Sartori
19 hours ago, Ralf Herrmann said:

I am still curious about its suitability today. But for that we would need some comments from type designers from countries such as Russia. 

I (not a type designer, nor from Russia) would nonetheless add some anecdotal evidence:

  • The best selling typefaces of the largest Russian foundry on the world’s largest font reseller are the very Western Futura and DIN.
  • Academy excluded, I was unable to find any other single typeface which features a curved top-right on |Р|, except for those (usually Bayer-inspired) that does the same for |P|.
  • The only historical antecedent I could think for a rounded |р| would be the |ρ| (lowercase Greek rho), but it seems frankly preposterous.
  • I found only one other typeface with a different design between |Р| and |P|:

 

On 7 April 2016 at 7:31 PM, Hrant Papazian said:

I think identity hinges on contrast, and not looking like a Latin "P" is something an ideal Er does

This, of course, can open a slew of considerations on every possible level. Here I would just say that it’s the same reasoning that backs the substitution of |A| with |Д| to make faux-Cyrillic typefaces look more “authentic”.

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d0nev
On 4/7/2016 at 6:58 AM, Ralf Herrmann said:

As a follow-up to these tweets: I am very curious about @Hrant Papazian’s comment regarding the Er letter. Can Hrant or someone else explain why this is a good design for this letter? And would this be applicable for any modern cyrillic alphabet?

I can tell you it is not applicable for any Cyrillic alphabet. I write in Cyrillic as my native languages are Macedonian/Bulgarian. Basically the alphabet originated from this region and later was spread as far to Russia.  As far as I am aware the Р (Er) always looked as the Latin for P, (without the rounded part on the top left) even in some very old texts that I have seen.

 

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John Savard

It is true that the modern Russian alphabet, as well as other current Cyrillic alphabets, is influenced by the Latin alphabet: the pairs Aa and Ee prove that. However, as far as its historical roots go, it was directly derived from Greek, not from Latin. As for the rounded corner on the Er, here what Hrant is thinking of as the appropriate form of the Cyrillic script is the Poluustav writing that preceded Peter the Great's language reform and related scripts.

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Hrant Papazian
On 4/8/2016 at 3:45 AM, Ralf Herrmann said:

why should there be a “forced” difference in the Er, but not in the Es for example.

Any conscious decision is a form of forcing; design is forcing, even if it's "soft power".

Where to draw the line is a valid question. To me it seems the Er is a very obvious place to start; in the future, who knows. But I'd actually be happy with simply seeing Ruble signs using the rounded form.

 

On 4/8/2016 at 8:18 AM, Riccardo Sartori said:

it’s the same reasoning that backs the substitution of |A| with |Д| to make faux-Cyrillic typefaces look more “authentic”.

I don't think it's the same, because I'm speaking of setting actual Cyrillic text. That said, maybe "authentic" is a less useful idea here than "Russian"; those faux fonts do have a role to play (even if they're typically abused).

 

On 4/12/2016 at 2:04 PM, d0nev said:

As far as I am aware the Р (Er) always looked as the Latin for P, (without the rounded part on the top left) even in some very old texts that I have seen.

This is clearly not true.

http://typedrawers.com/discussion/2281/early-forms-of-cyrillic-r-r

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d0nev
17 hours ago, Hrant Papazian said:
 

The article that you are referring to is about "Russian" Cyrillic. Russian Cyrillic does not represent Cyrillic in general as each Cyrillic alphabet has unique sounds/letters as well as unique cursive writings. I have never seen that type of Р in Bulgarian/Macedonian. 

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Hrant Papazian

Funny, Venezuela's new Petro currency has a symbol that should've been the Ruble's...

Petro.gif

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