Unicase Cyrillic and Greek

Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,379
edited June 2015 in Technique and Theory
What's a good strategy for adding Cyrillic and Greek to unicase fonts? By unicase, I'm referring to that display font style that was in vogue in the late 1960's. PLINC calls then bicameral and they're sometimes called mixed-case. While there are no set rules, the general strategy is often: if a lowercase letter can be manipulated to align with the caps, do it. The result is usually something like this:


Sometimes a dotted i and j or a lowercase style p but that type of idea.

In this example, the lowercase letters would be scaled up to cap height and the g and y would be bumped up to the cap height. Not exactly but I'm sure you've seen this type of thing before, especially with Helvetica and Eurostile. The whole reason for making a unicase font is the funk factor. It would be more practical and readable to simply make it all caps but that would not be a unicase font, nor would it be as funky. In Greek and Cyrillic alphabets, I'm not sure which rules can be bent and how far to bend them.

With Cyrillic, I think it's a no-brainer since the upper/lower forms are almost all identical.

Here are both cases:

So I'd guess the unicase version could be like this:
Almost no difference other than the funky a,e,p.

For Greek it's tricky because so many forms are different.

There are certain letters that we can probably relegate as caps as they're almost the same as the uppercase forms or impractical.

That leaves us with these as possible capital forms...

And these ones to play with...
Αα Γγ Δδ Εε Λλ Νν Ρρ Σσς Υυ Φφ Ωω

Which of these Greek lowercase letters could be manipulated into funky caps and still make sense to a reader? Could the beta descender be cut off and made to look like a capital? Could the eta descender be cut off and made into sort of a big lowercase n? How far can I push it? What about the two sigma forms?


  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,145
    Here’s what I did in Scotch Modern.
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,379
    Interesting! Is that a C substituting for Σ?
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,975
    The 'lunate sigma' (historically, the origin of the Cyrillic Es).
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,145
    edited June 2015
    The lunate sigma was an easy unicase design solution for the Scotch Modern, because in this style the /c has a very small aperture and is almost a closed circle, like a conventional sigma. The Latin-looking eta and nu are not particularly strange these days—there are quite a few new faces that have these forms, such as Panos Vassiliou’s Centro family.
  • Nice! Though I'm wondering how legible the /epsilon and /sigma are going to be — I could imagine people might read the former as the latter, expecting a capital form.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,145
    edited June 2015
    I don’t think so—all the characters here have typical, familiar forms, which, combined with context, makes meaning clear. Only the archaïc sigma is a potential problem.

    The Σ=E idea is rooted in “Greekish” usage in Latin Script countries. For instance, there is a local restaurant in my town named Σuphoria, which drives me nuts as I always read it Suphoria, but everyone else here (who is unfamiliar with the Greek alphabet) says Euphoria, which, apparently, is correct!

    And then there are KIΛ cars—I wonder if those are sold in Greece? 
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,379
    That'd be like selling a Nissan OUEST, Toyota AOUA, Toyota SEOUOIA, Suzuki EOUATOR or Audi O7.
  • Dmitry GoloubDmitry Goloub Posts: 10
    edited June 2015
    For some extra bizzarness in Cyrillic, you can point the descenders in д ц щ upwards, from the baseline. Like the Д here my typeface Ardent:

    Also you can use the italic letterforms for г and в in order to make more difference

  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,379
    Far out!
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