Sputnik is a major new media brand with multimedia centres located in various cities worldwide, each of them with their own websites. Sputnik plans to broadcast in 30 languages, with over 800 hours of radio programming daily, covering over 130 cities in 34 countries. We designed Sputnik Display — a bespoke new typeface for the brand. You can have a look at the typeface in use on the agency's website.
The project started with a discussion with the agency, working on the overall corporate identity of the brand, which suggested a typeface related to the one already used in the logo — Moderna. They wanted the the logo (with it’s round shapes for N and U as key features) and the new typeface to work together in bringing a strong personality to the corporate identity.
In the process of discussion, we came up with some of the key factors, important for the development of the typeface. The result was Sputnik Display — and unusual approach to the commonly boring field of corporate typeface design. It was designed to work across a wide range of media, support Extended Latin and Extended Cyrillic scripts, and capture the brand’s bold and authoritative, but friendly and welcoming identity.
The key languages of the typeface where going to be the Extended Cyrillic characters used in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Abkhazia, Mongolia, etc. So we had to develop an idea that would work equally successful in both Latin and Cyrillic scripts. Anyone who has worked with Cyrillic before knows that it has a lot of straights in the lowercase and that a lot of lowercase characters in Russian Cyrillic share their construction with the uppercase characters. This makes it quite challenging to incorporate a more round and less geometric character to the Cyrillic shapes.
It is not always obvious how Latin and Cyrillic should be related within the typeface. We are often taught that the scripts should be drawn and treated with respect. But this does not mean that you should be afraid of bringing some quite unconventional ideas. Display typefaces usually allow a bit more experimentation. We came to the idea to use some upright italic constructions, to match the character of Cyrillic and Latin. It is important to say that these ideas were used in both Latin and Cyrillic, rather than added to the Cyrillic in order to match the Latin… Basically we were looking for something similarly awkward in both scripts. Combining geometry, historical references and cursive constructions our goal was to create a remarkable character at the end.
One may call it a Bulgarian Cyrillic influence — but this would be too superficial to say. We did incorporate few italic constructions to roman, but this does not allow you to call this Cyrillic — Bulgarian. Those changes are not ideological, they were made with a strong reason behind.
Another key element that makes the typeface distinctive is a double-story a, which fits with the cursive construction of the e. It is important to mention that those characters influenced the extended Cyrillic characters, which was very important in our case. We reached a point when we realised that we had to break certain rules of consistency, at least in terms of the construction of individual characters, in order to acheive actual consistency in the rhythm of the text. — At this point you might ask — But what about The Stroke and The Pen? This project has nothing to do with those things 😄 Sorry!
There are few details that might be hard to notice for people who are not familiar with the Cyrillic. We mixed cursive constructions in the lowercase in an unconventional way – п ц ш щ and и й т. This gives a room for personality, but at the same time doesn’t make the typeface too crazy for the reader. It does look strange, but not too strange. For example turning п ц ш щ into cursive constructions would have been much more noticeable. You also might wonder about the unusal shape of Рр — it is a historical Cyrillic shape, which we found matched well with the rest of the typeface and contributed to the character.
As usual, we started with a lot of sketching, to document all the ideas that we had in out heads and test them. We had to make sure that these ideas would work throughout the whole typeface, and especially with the Extended Cyrillic characters, which was a particular challenge. We tried a lot of alternatives to figure out which of them can be used and which not.