Balkan united by typography

The Balkan typeface system decodes Latin and Cyrillic for the sake of tolerance and better communication. And it got the looks, too

Created by Marija Juza and Nikola Djurek, a Ph.D. in type design and owner of Croatian Typonine, Balkan is a new typeface system that consists of Latin and Cyrillic scripts: it is based on the study of a phenomenon known as Balkan sprachbund, a term used to describe neighboring languages whose sound and grammatical features have merged because of their proximity. The typeface system also represents an attempt to identify the features shared by some South Slavic languages and alphabets like Bosnian, Montenegrin, Croatian and Serbian.

“We have focused on the dual-literacy that characterizes Slavic peoples, many of whom use and transliterate both Latin and Cyrillic alphabets” the authors say.

“The use of Latin and Cyrillic typifies the former Yugoslavian countries, today’s Serbia, Bosnia and Hercegovina as well as Montenegro. Historically, both scripts in this region were bearers of cultural, ethnic, religious and political identities, but their communicative and symbolic functions were often out of step just for the sake of multi-ethnicity. On the other hand, close development of languages and scripts throughout history resulted in shared properties. Today some regional languages in the Western Balkans are so similar that they can even be thought of as dialects.”

Best example would be Serbian and Croatian (also known as Serbo-Croatian) whose mutual differentiation is similar to that of English and American. Apart from the fact that Croats use Latin, while Serbs officially write in Cyrillic. Both scripts have been heavily politicised in the last several decades along the lines of nationalism and even today, they sometimes function as political statements in relation to one another, depending on the context.

The Balkan typeface system is a series of fonts that decodes Latin and Cyrillic: “it demystifies, depoliticizes and reconciles them for the sake of education, tolerance and, above all, communication.” It can also be used to translate Croatian Latin into Serbian Cyrillic and vice versa. The authors think of the fonts as “educational software capable of reconciling discrete scripts.” Like all OpenType fonts, Balkan can be expanded to include the Russian, Macedonian and Bulgarian alphabets.