After having worked on the Cyrillic extension of Moller, our friends at Atipo commissioned us to carry out a quite big character set extension of another of their custom projects, Seville. This is a customised typeface from their library that was tweaked to work on the screen of smart watches for Fitbit, a company dedicated to the development of activity tracking devises and apps.
Our part of the job was to make this typeface grow to cover Pinyin (this is a romanisation system of the Mandarin language which uses the Latin alphabet, in this case there where some glyphs missing needed for such transliterations), Cyrillic Extended, Greek and Hebrew in three different weights.
For each of this writing systems we had the same approach, we analysed the typeface and extracted the proportions, curve type and terminals from the Latin to be applied into the other writing systems from a respectful viewpoint.
In the Cyrillic case the most challenging part was the extension of the set, as it is not so common to have this kind of commissions and there are not many referents out there, it is always complicated. Luckily we had some previous experience on this.
For the Greek we had the help of Irene Vlachou as a consultant. Our approach to this particular writing system was to keep a bit of the movement of the Greek but with relatively simple structures to fit the Latin. Irene gave us a very accurate feedback and helped us to learn a bit more about Greek.
In many typefaces the Greek kappa is the Latin k. We rather use a letterform which is closer to the Greek script, and in this specific case it is important because the Latin “k” looks a bit Cyrillic and it felt out of context in the Greek.
In Greek we find some terminals which are different from the Latin, we looked for the most similar existing shapes so those influence the new ones.
In this case we had already done this in the Cyrillic so some of the terminals form the Cyrillic helped to build the Greek.They are not identical but they have a clear relationship keeping harmony between all of the witting systems.
Greek shares the same x-height as the Latin, however Greek has different ascender and descender lengths. Some of the letters have the same extenders as Latin and some have different ones like λ which has a lower ascender, or γ which doesn’t go down all the way to the descenders.
For the Hebrew extension we counted with the advise of Liron Lavi Turkenich, who also gave us very accurate feedback and taught us some very interesting things about this writing system.
Seville Hebrew follows the proportions and features of the other writing systems respecting its particularities. The structure of Hebrew is square compared with the Latin which is rounded. The contrast is the opposite than in Latin, Seville has almost no contrast but the subtle contrast is reversed in the Hebrew so the thicker strokes are in the horizontal rather than in the verticals.
In the case of Hebrew there is no relationship at all with Latin, Cyrillic or Greek which have some relationship within themselves, they are all alphabetic systems while Hebrew is an Abjad system (Abjad is a system in which each letter stands for a consonant, the reader adds the necessary vowel by context although there are vocalised versions of them, these are not commonly used). The text is read from right to left, and the structure of Hebrew letters is squarish while in the other scripts are rounded.
When so different writing systems need to be matched the strategy usually is to just follow the same weight, proportions, modulation, terminals and a general approach when designing the structure of the letterforms, in this case it is a simple structure. This is usually enough for a good match, however similar types of curves are looked for in order to make the relationship even closer. In this case number seven provides inspiration for Lamed and qof.
Small details like the flick of the l applied to Tav also help with harmonisation.
Hebrew does not have uppercase letters, it is squared and has open counters which allow a lot of white space inside the majority of its letters. This makes it look smaller in text than Latin so the height needs to be a bit bigger than the Latin x-height.
This was a challenging project which we enjoyed very much because we had the opportunity to consolidate our knowledge in those three writing systems with the help of our consultants. Working with a typeface with different writing systems is always very rewarding!