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Cyrillic for SFT Sushka: The Designer’s Brain Teaser

In this short article, we will take a detailed look at the thought process behind finding unconventional solutions for Cyrillic letters.
April 17, 2023 ∙ 4 min. read
SFT Sushka
No Lowercase, No Problem. Almost
Cyrillic script in SFT Sushka might seem easy to implement, as there are no lowercase characters in the font. The uppercase characters largely duplicate their Latin counterparts. However, there were still some challenges to overcome.

First and foremost, as with Latin script, I needed to solve the problem of tight line spacing and accents exceeding the letter height. Working with diacritic marks was no different from working with them in Latin script. As a reminder, I made the letters with diacritics shorter so that the marks wouldn’t protrude too much above the line.
You can read about dealing with diacritics and tight line spacing in the main article about SFT Sushka.
Cyrillic letters in SFT Sushka.

Cyrillic letters in SFT Sushka. Grey color — letters that look the same as in Latin.

Descending Elements and Tight Line Spacing
But there is one important difference from Latin script — in addition to accents, Cyrillic script has some letters with descending beyond the baseline parts. Let’s take a look at the letters Д, Ц, Щ. In sans serif fonts, their descenders are typically made identical as short straight legs. In some serif fonts, the descenders of Ц, Щ are designed as elegant fox tails. But what to do in our case?

I didn’t really like how classical descending elements in Ц, Щ looked — they caused too much white space to the right of the letters in such tight spacing. However, an imitation of a tail looked interesting here. In Д the classical descenders also didn’t work well, they make the letter look heavy and clumsy. Of course, there is always an option to just cut off the legs of Д. But personally, I believe that there should be a very weighty graphic reason for this (for example, tailless or legless Ц, Щ), which was not present in this font. So, the only option left was to try a very unusual solution — to attach the tail from Ц, Щ to Д. And strangely enough, it worked. It even became a reference to the Latin letter S in the form of a burger.
SFT Sushka. Letters Д Ц Щ.

SFT Sushka. Letters Д Ц Щ.

In Cyrillic, there are other characters with similar elements where such a solution was not applicable. For example, Џ. If you add a tail to it, the character would be hard to distinguish from Ц. As the descender is in the center here, a solution with a regular vertical line looks quite appropriate and does not create excessive white space as in Ц.
SFT Sushka. Letter Џ.

SFT Sushka. Letter Џ.

Another challenge was presented by the letters Җ, Қ, Ң, Ҳ, Ҷ. In a regular sans serif typeface, these descending elements would have been formed in the same way as in Ц, without any issues. But as you can see, this is not our case. On the othe hand, if we add the hanging element slightly to the right, as is usually done, then our rhythm of tight letter spacing would be disrupted by unsightly gaps. So our only option was to place this element at the bottom. But not too low to disrupt the tight line spacing! Fortunately, in SFT Sushka, we can cut out letters like a stencil and pretend it’s a brilliant graphic move :) In the case of Җ, Қ, Ң, Ҳ, Ҷ, this tactic also worked.
SFT Sushka. Letters Җ Қ Ң Ҳ Ҷ.

SFT Sushka. Letters Җ Қ Ң Ҳ Ҷ.

Fine-Tuning the Details
The most fundamental solutions have been covered, but let’s take a look at a few more individual moments.

Why are the Л, Д triangular in this font, not rectangular? At first, I drew the rectangular version, but it seemed too cumbersome and complex for a narrow modular font like SFT Sushka. Triangular Л, Д in our case look much more elegant. As a bonus, there is no need to draw their Bulgarian (triangular) versions separately.
SFT Sushka. Letter Л.

SFT Sushka. Letter Л.

The letter Ы in its classic form seemed too wide, so I “optimized” it. You could argue that this letter wouldn’t be wider than Ю, which is present in the font in its unchanged form. And you would be right. However, the letter Ы has a lot of empty space that doesn’t suit this font very well.
SFT Sushka. Letter Ы.

SFT Sushka. Letter Ы.

As a Conclusion
In a font with many restrictions and non-standard graphics, making decisions on how to draw certain characters can sometimes feel like a puzzle. This is the beauty of working on a creative headline font — many things are not obvious, you have to engage your brain and think. And this is one of the things that I like the most about type design.
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