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Cyrillic Typography

Cyrillic Typography is my thesis project which explored the history and development of Cyrillic letterforms, primarily in Bulgaria and Russia, and examined how history and culture had an impact on the stylistic variations of the letters in each region.

The project is an exploration of the stylistic variations, their significance, their history, and is a visual representation on the importance of localization and allowing for shaping and expressing local identity through type.


Topic Research,

Typeface Design,

Layout Design





September 2022 -

April 2023

Project Overview

Due the belief that stylistic variations are just for aesthetic purposes, and not because of local identity and history, localized letterforms are often disregarded and viewed as unnecessary. This project is aimed at breaking that belief through educating on the topic, and developing typefaces that are inclusive of localized letterform variations, to show that it is necessary to design them in order to represent local identity. 

The final research question that guided this project was:

How did history and culture influence the development of Cyrillic letterforms, and what is the importance of localization in shaping local identity through type?

The objective of this project was to developing typefaces that include all localized glyphs and letterforms, that will allow those who use Cyrillic letterforms to express themselves and their national identity through the use of the letterforms that are reflective of their national culture and history. The goal is to educate and shine a light on this question, and ultimately allow for future development of localized letterforms to allow expression and reflection of identity through type.

Brief History

Cyrillic letterforms were developed in Bulgaria in the 9th century, as a way to craft a new identity and be able to use letters that are representative of their local culture and language. They were based on Greek letters that were used at the time. Years later, Cyrillic was introduced in Russia, along with other neighbouring countries. This is when adaptations began to be made. 


Bulgarian and Russian Cyrillic letterforms vary greatly in the rationale behind the design. Bulgarian letterforms were inspired by handwriting, whereas Russian letterforms by the desire for a Westernized and European inspired identity. With the rise of printing and access to such technology, Russian letterforms were altered to account for that and became the template for letterform development, also due to the greater number of Russian Cyrillic users. This is the reason why Bulgarian letterforms are often not developed, because of the acceptance that the letters look and read the same anyways, so there is no point in developing extra styles of the same letters, as they already look the same as the Russian ones. 

However the visual differences are visible in the uppercase letters, and are even more prominent in the lowercase letterforms.

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*Bulgarian Cyrillic (left) vs.Russian Cyrillic (right)

The Project

The project consists of five-components, a brief history book and four typefaces that support localized letterforms, that all serve to collectively serve to outline the history of Cyrillic typography, the importance of localization and how and why the letterforms were designed the way they were.

The goal of this project is to bring attention to this question, and to allow for expression of national identity in all countries using Cyrillic letterforms, and will teach other designers and typographers about the importance of localized letterforms. This will allow for future development of localized letterforms to allow expression and reflection of identity through letterforms.


*View full project here.


As we grow and evolve, our life, culture, experiences, and knowledge, constantly change our identity and who we are. Throughout the lives we've lived we learned different things that shaped us to become who we are now and one thing we see evolved overtime consistently is our handwriting . Our written reflection of who we are, and that never changes, and it can never be taken away from us or it can't be represented with somebody else's writing. There is our own script and it's a unique representation and reflection of us.

In the same way letterforms and scripts evolved over time and are a reflection of cultural and national identity.For this reason, it is possible and important to create typefaces that are inclusive of those cultural differences and it should happen. With this project, I wanted to achieve just that, I want this to be the basis from which this change occurs - I wanted this project to educate about these differences and show that it is possible to design localized glyphs, but more importantly it is important to design them.

Reflection and Project Takeaways

Having learned about Bulgarian Cyrillic fairly recently, I was fascinated and wanted to learn more about what causes the separation between Bulgarian and Russian Cyrillic letterforms. It was interesting and insightful to learn about the very different reasons why each variation was developed. Through research I was shocked to find out that there is very little knowledge and conversation about this, and for this reason many typefaces that support Cyrillic, do not have localized letterforms. 

At the same time, this project holds a significance to me, as I am Bulgarian, and I wanted to make a project that is reflective of my cultural identity, and after I learned about the lack of support for Bulgarian Cyrillic, I knew I wanted to make something that will help me and other Cyrillic letter users be able to express their identity through type.

A few things that I learned through the process of this project:

  • The main reason for the development of localized letterforms, goes deeper beyond the belief it is for aesthetic reasons, and there is a significance of each letterform that needs to be reflected in the design.

  • Cyrillic letterforms have specific proportions that have to be maintained when designing typefaces.

  • The process of typeface design is very time-consuming but rewarding at the same time.

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