Interview with Ilya Ruderman

19 June 2015


Ilya Ruderman


Eugene Yukechev

or a long time, Ilya Ruder­man was phe­nom­en­ally per­sist­ent in not re­leas­ing his typefaces onto the mar­ket, ac­cus­ing de­sign­ers of pir­acy. His in­dig­na­tion is un­der­stand­able if you look at our sur­round­ings. Ruder­man talks about the struggle to im­prove type cul­ture in al­most every one of his in­ter­views, but not this time. We met after the ATypI‘14 con­fer­en­ce in Bar­celona to take a look at the typefaces he has cre­ated, as well as talk about the spe­cif­ics of the pro­fes­sion, edu­ca­tion and the changes oc­cur­ring around us.

Ilya, many young type de­sign­ers were in­tro­duced to the pro­fes­sion of type design from your per­son­al ex­per­i­en­ce: in 2004 your Dutch Heights columns, which chron­icled the pro­cess of the Type and Me­dia course in The Hag­ue, made quite a stir. I, for one, read them like an epic saga. Ten years later, how do you see your­self in this pro­fes­sion today? 

I con­sider my­self a prac­ti­cing type de­sign­er who is less fo­cused on the his­tor­ic­al basis of his work and more in­ter­es­ted in try­ing to cre­ate something rel­ev­ant and new. I take on pro­jects on the con­di­tion that there is a pos­sib­il­ity to come up with something unique that could con­trib­ute to a cer­tain part of type her­it­age or world cul­ture in gen­er­al, al­though that prob­ably sounds overly self-con­fid­ent. If the task is set in an un­in­ter­est­ing way, I either turn it down or try to push the bound­ar­ies. I want to be al­lowed to find something new even where it seems that everything has already been done.

The typeface Vander could be seen as an ex­ample of a pro­ject with a unique story be­hind it. It was the first ser­i­ous pro­ject I worked on with the idea of ver­tic­al it­al­ic, which is able to bring the im­age of Cyril­lic text closer to Lat­in type due to its con­struc­tion.

The idea be­hind the typeface Vander (Ilya Ruder­man’s gradu­ation pro­ject from theType and Me­dia course at the Roy­al Academy of Art in The Hag­ue) is to try to find com­mon ground between the two (more, in fact, if we bear in mind the graph­ic vari­ations of Cyril­lic, for ex­ample, Bul­gari­an style) fun­da­ment­al graph­ic “matrices”—Lat­in and Cyril­lic. Tech­nic­ally, Vander is a ver­tic­al it­al­ic text typeface, and this is no co­in­cid­en­ce. A de­tailed break­down of Cyril­lic char­ac­ters (in­to ver­tic­al strokes, bowls, di­ag­on­als, ho­ri­zont­al cross­bars, ex­tenders, etc.) and com­par­is­on with a sim­il­arly “layered” ana­lys­is of Ro­man let­ters showed sig­ni­fic­ant dif­fer­en­ces in the tex­ture of type set in Cyril­lic and Lat­in. The im­age of Cyril­lic text is rhyth­mic­ally less ordered, with few­er ex­tenders and roun­ded ele­ments. This put the au­thor onto the idea of bring­ing Cyril­lic and Lat­in closer to­geth­er by us­ing ver­tic­al it­al­ics, as the char­ac­ter­ist­ics of Cyril­lic it­al­ic are sim­il­ar to those of the Lat­in al­pha­bet: there are more as­cend­ers and des­cend­ers, and many rect­an­gu­lar let­ters be­come roun­ded, which ser­i­ously changes the rhythm of text. Ten years after the gradu­ation pro­ject was de­fen­ded, it is be­ing de­ve­loped and re­thought again, and there are grounds to hope that it will one day be pub­lished.

Vander is a typeface that was the res­ult of your time on the KABK course in 2005. It was nev­er re­leased after your gradu­ation. Why is it still sit­ting around in your desk, has it changed over this time, and what is be­hind the pro­ject?

For the last ten years, I just haven’t been able to fin­ish Vander for vari­ous reas­ons. First of all, I got tired of it while I was work­ing on my de­gree in the Neth­er­lands. Then I tried to look in­to it again, but real­ised that I’d stopped feel­ing it—it wasn’t mine any­more. And now, after those ten years have passed, I took ad­vant­age of a re­cent lull in my work to have a fresh look at it—hav­ing taken a break from it, I’d star­ted to miss it and wanted to redo everything, while keep­ing its es­sence. Per­haps I’ll be able to fin­ish it in the near fu­ture—it’s not go­ing to look like it used to, be­cause over that time I’ve ac­cu­mu­lated enough ex­per­i­en­ce to purge the many ques­tion­able things that I al­lowed my­self to do back then through na­iv­ety.

Your time in Hol­land was pre­ceded by stud­ies in Mo­scow—in Al­ex­an­der Tar­beev’s work­shop at the State Uni­versity of Print­ing Arts. At that time, it was the only place where type design was taught. How were his classes or­gan­ised?

Chro­no­lo­gic­ally, that’s right, but I can’t call Al­ex­an­der’s classes “stud­ies”. In my lec­tures, when in­tro­du­cing my­self to new groups of stu­dents, I al­ways note that in my life Al­ex­an­der worked more as a cata­lyst than a teach­er who taught me something spe­cif­ic—un­for­tu­nately, there wasn’t enough time for that, as we were already in our fi­nal year when he came to the uni­versity.

When Tar­beev ar­rived, we were already work­ing on our gradu­ation pro­jects. Yuri Os­tro­ment­sky and I went to him ourselves to ask him to su­per­vise the second part of our work, which was ded­ic­ated to type. We already had an in­terest in typefaces and had even sent our first pro­jects to Kir­il­litsa‘99. We had just mastered Font­Lab and Fon­to­graph­er. We wanted to do something, but didn’t know how to. So when Tar­beev ap­peared, the type-ori­en­ted stu­dents were at­trac­ted to him like a mag­net. He in­fec­ted us with love for type and helped with the first steps, our gradu­ation pro­jects. I pre­pared half of my pro­ject at his house, be­cause Fon­to­graph­er didn’t work any­where else for some reas­on, and we didn’t have our own com­puters back then—I vis­ited him and de­signed my pro­ject with his help. So Tar­beev is much more than just a teach­er for me—he’s a man who opened up a pro­fes­sion that be­came in­cred­ibly im­port­ant in my life for a long time.

What oth­er op­tions of con­tinu­ing your edu­ca­tion did you con­sider?

Be­fore leav­ing for Hol­land, I real­ised that I could get just about the same know­ledge as from the Type and Me­dia course by go­ing around all our great type de­sign­ers, but it would take a lot of time and be harder than spend­ing one year on con­cen­trated stud­ies. In my opin­ion, Type and Me­dia is one of the best places for this on the plan­et. This course fits with my way of think­ing, as it’s fo­cused on real prac­tic­al pro­duc­tion and less on the the­or­et­ic­al basis and re­search, which the Read­ing course, for ex­ample, is more geared to­wards. I’ve nev­er re­gret­ted the fact that I stud­ied in the Neth­er­lands and not in Eng­land. The course it­self, the teach­ers, the stu­dents and alumni make up a com­mu­nity that is really chan­ging the type world, mod­ern font design and tech­no­logy. No one else has that sort of in­flu­en­ce.

After study­ing in The Hag­ue you star­ted work as a type de­sign­er. At that time, the wave of the “Rus­si­an type boom”, which Krichevsky com­plains about, had not yet ris­en, and de­mand for type de­vel­op­ment was very se­lect­ive. Who were your cli­ents?

Re­turn­ing to Rus­sia, I was quite sought-after as a type de­sign­er—I’ve had no down­time since 2005 and was al­ways busy with type work. Throughout my ca­reer of work­ing as a freel­an­cer or work­ing as a salar­ied em­ploy­ee at an agency, I al­ways found time, I al­ways found time to do type work in the even­ing or at night—there were al­ways or­ders. There are ba­sic­ally two fronts of work: in the first case, typefaces for the ex­clus­ive use of spe­cif­ic com­pan­ies, when the cli­ent pays for a font to be pro­duced for their own pro­ject. In this situ­ation, there is no need to worry about the av­er­age user, the mar­ket or sales, which is an ad­vant­age, but not many people know about these jobs. Al­tern­at­ively, in the second case, I worked for well-known magazines that were al­ways more or less in the pub­lic eye.

For ex­ample, I did an im­port­ant pro­ject for the magazine Bolshoi Gorod (Big City)—a large font fam­ily called Big City Sans, which then set a per­son­al re­cord for both the num­ber of char­ac­ters and num­ber of styles. This design was well re­ceived by the pro­fes­sion­al com­mu­nity and it picked up a few prizes. That’s when this busi­ness with Cyril­lic lig­at­ures star­ted—I see its con­tinu­ation in the pro­jects of stu­dents who don’t hes­it­ate to draw Cyril­lic lig­at­ures any more. In my opin­ion, Big City Sans was the first time that lig­at­ures ap­peared in such num­bers. These days, of course, I have a lot of prob­lems with it—I’d nev­er let any­one use it in its cur­rent form. But the typeface was used quite act­ively in the magazine over five years, car­ry­ing out both text and dis­play tasks. I think it strongly in­flu­en­ced the aes­thet­ics and look of the magazine.


The typeface Big City Sans, de­signed spe­cif­ic­ally for the magazine “Big City” and used in that pub­lic­a­tion in re­cent years. The ex­ten­ded char­ac­ter set, which sup­ports all European lan­guages, a large num­ber of lig­at­ures, in­clud­ing Cyril­lic, small caps, in­dices, frac­tions, or­din­al num­bers and five styles of num­bers make the typeface a power­ful tool in the design of peri­od­ic­als.

Yuri Os­tro­ment­sky was the art dir­ect­or of the magazine. We main­tained ab­so­lute in­de­pend­en­ce between the pro­cesses. Yuri barely got in­volved in my de­cisions and didn’t try to in­flu­en­ce my work. We agreed on the design, and I just ex­pan­ded on some graph­ics we found that the cus­tom­er was happy with, but that was the ex­tent of the col­lab­or­a­tion. Later, there were many pro­jects where the design came to­geth­er “between the fin­gers of two pairs of hands”, but that wasn’t the case for this par­tic­u­lar pro­ject.

From about 2008, West­ern de­sign­ers star­ted get­ting in touch with me all of a sud­den—as a spe­cial­ist in Cyril­lic. That led to a tightly packed spread of cyril­lisa­tion col­lab­or­a­tions. Over the years, I’ve cre­ated many Cyril­lic al­pha­bets for world-class pro­jects, and am start­ing to be­come proud of this in some meas­ure. Moreover, I real­ised that I can learn a lot by de­vel­op­ing someone else’s graph­ic ideas in Cyril­lic. These kinds of col­lab­or­a­tions pair you with de­sign­ers who have com­pli­ment­ary but dif­fer­ent levels of ex­per­i­en­ce, some­times you learn a lot from them, oth­er times you teach your col­league something. And that’s al­ways in­ter­est­ing.

In 2011, a “uni­ver­sal typeface, cre­ated es­pe­cially for the design of the city of Perm” was cre­ated, as stated on the “Art. Lebedev Stu­dio” web­site. How was the task for the de­vel­op­ment of the Per­mi­an typeface for­mu­lated? Did it work out well?

That was an im­port­ant mile­stone. Artemy Lebedev ini­tially for­mu­lated the brief like this: we need one typeface (for the pur­poses of dis­cus­sion, John­ston in the Lon­don trans­port sys­tem)—bright and multi-func­tion­al, which could be as­signed to the ty­po­graph­ic­al im­age of the city. But in the search for the per­fect solu­tion, we came to the con­clu­sion that it would have to be three in­de­pend­ent typefaces based on one graph­ic­al found­a­tion. This was a rar­ity in the Cyril­lic world, so the pro­ject was in­ter­est­ing to me. It’s one of the few pro­jects that was brought to a con­clu­sion, so that a sans serif, serif and square serif geared first and fore­most to Cyril­lic would come in­to be­ing in Rus­sia as one large su­per­fam­ily. In the end, we went from one style to three typefaces with three styles each.


The Per­mi­an type sys­tem for the design of the city of Perm is made up of three typefaces united by a single graph­ic­al idea. Each face has it­al­ics and bold (9 styles in total). The serif, sans serif and slab serifs can be used for both text and dis­play tasks. Since its cre­ation, the fam­ily has been act­ively util­ised by the Perm Centre for the De­vel­op­ment of Design: Per­mi­an was used in the design of pub­lic trans­port stops, urb­an nav­ig­a­tion and prin­ted ma­ter­i­als.

The wide­spread pub­li­city and free dis­tri­bu­tion of the typeface wor­ried me from the be­gin­ning. It was the first pro­ject where I had to up­load a file that would be openly ac­cess­ible and re­quired to work for any user. Be­fore, a product that I made went to one par­tic­u­lar art dir­ect­or and had to work per­fectly on his par­tic­u­lar ma­chine. But here, the typeface should fall in­to the hands of an audi­en­ce un­known to me, a large num­ber of users.

It is ob­vi­ous that your evol­u­tion did not end with Per­mi­an, but there have not been any oth­er pro­jects on the scale of that one and Big City since then. What happened next? Which typefaces have emerged in the last few years?

That’s an in­ter­est­ing ques­tion. When I thought about what I should send to the re­cent Mod­ern Cyril­lic com­pet­i­tions, I real­ised that since the pre­vi­ous con­test in 2009, I’ve cre­ated very few new typefaces. It’s just that in the last few years I’ve been more in­volved in cyril­lisa­tion. Which I en­joy, by the way. 

For sev­er­al years, we’ve been see­ing in­creased de­mand of Cyril­lic typefaces from in­ter­na­tion­al type foundries. For ex­ample, Com­mer­cial Type, Font­s­miths, Suisse Typefaces, Ty­po­theque, Ty­pon­ine, Type To­geth­er and oth­ers are act­ively de­vel­op­ing their type fam­il­ies with Cyril­lic. In your opin­ion, is this just mar­ket growth or is Cyril­lic ac­tu­ally be­com­ing more pop­u­lar?

We’ve been liv­ing in a world with mul­ti­lin­gual type sys­tems for a long time. For ex­ample, yes­ter­day you and I listened to a Paul Hunt talk on the evol­u­tion of non-Lat­in Adobe fonts and their re­leases. It’s ob­vi­ous that the early Cyril­lic re­leases are be­ing re­placed by qual­ity pro­jects with cur­rent and cor­rect solu­tions—typefaces that it’s hard to find fault with: Adobe Text Pro, Gara­mond Premi­er Pro. Back in the day, Adobe made two dis­as­trous mis­takes provid­ing us with Min­ion and Myri­ad—the num­ber of draw­ing mis­takes in the Cyril­lic makes it im­pos­sible to re­com­mend these beau­ti­ful typefaces for use. After 2000, re­leases with bet­ter Cyril­lic star­ted to ap­pear. The trend is clear: more and more West­ern de­sign­ers in­clude both the Greek and Cyril­lic al­pha­bets in their ba­sic pack­ages by de­fault. West­ern de­sign­ers—in­clud­ing small stu­di­os—have ac­cu­mu­lated enough ex­per­i­en­ce to make few­er mis­takes and are con­tinu­ing to im­prove. What’s more, Cyril­lic takes first place in the Adobe lib­rary among non-Lat­in scripts. This is not just a trend, it’s already a giv­en. This is what the mod­ern Cyril­lic world looks like—most of the typefaces are de­signed in a coun­try where Cyril­lic isn’t the main script. The second phe­no­men­on is the growth of a young gen­er­a­tion of Cyril­lic de­sign­ers, and, in gen­er­al, the Rus­si­an mar­ket is also de­vel­op­ing suc­cess­fully. We have more and more cli­ents that un­der­stand the need for an ori­gin­al typeface, or at least a good typeface. More and more worry about the leg­al­ity of typeface use.

I agree with Yuri Gor­don that Cyril­lic is worthy of its own evol­u­tion­ary path. For this, the mar­ket needs a couple of dozen ori­gin­al type per­son­al­it­ies who have done a lot of ex­per­i­ment­ing and are able to de­vel­op a type cul­ture. It’s dif­fi­cult to say that Rus­si­an type de­sign­ers have some sort of re­cog­nis­able style. You can kind of say that about the Dutch—they’re the suc­cessors of Dutch type tra­di­tions with their love of the broad-nib pen, fol­low­ers of Ger­rit Noordz­ij. Very of­ten, I can re­cog­nise a Dutch de­sign­er by their “hand­writ­ing”. Can this be said about the Cyril­lic world and Rus­si­an de­sign­ers? I can’t be sure, but I wouldn’t want that to be the case. We’re mul­ti­lin­gual de­sign­ers any­way, and al­ways design Lat­in by de­fault. Some­times we make more mis­takes than in our be­loved Cyril­lic, and some­times our Lat­in amuses West­ern ex­perts, who have a bet­ter know­ledge of the his­tor­ic­al ana­logues and visu­al as­so­ci­ations of the Lat­in al­pha­bet. But the fact that we are part of this tri­lin­gual world, the world of three writ­ing sys­tems—Lat­in, Greek and Cyril­lic al­pha­bet—is the most im­port­ant point and should not be for­got­ten.

Talk­ing about your work with Yuri Os­tro­ment­sky, how does your type foundry CSTM Fonts po­s­i­tion it­self? Is it go­ing to design typefaces for ex­clus­ive use, jus­ti­fy­ing its name, or do you plan to provide a type lib­rary for a wide range of users too?

In re­cent years, there have been many pro­jects for which Yuri and my­self cre­ated typefaces in tan­dem, ef­fect­ively work­ing as four hands to­geth­er, which al­lows us to do things more quickly and pro­duce a con­sist­ently high-qual­ity product. Ac­tu­ally, it all star­ted with a pro­ject on which we agreed the ba­sic para­met­ers, and then drew vari­ous faces in­de­pend­ently. Yuri, for ex­ample, de­signed one style, and I did an­oth­er one to go with it. Nev­er­the­less, everything worked to­geth­er, al­though the typefaces were fun­da­ment­ally dif­fer­ent. This led to us mak­ing our mu­tu­al dream come true—at the end of last year we cre­ated our own type work­shop, which is called CSTM Fonts, and now we fi­nally spend our time in the same space and work on the same pro­jects.

Our first typeface Kazi­mir was in­spired by P.N. Pole­voy’s book “His­tory of Rus­si­an Lit­er­at­ure” and Rus­si­an ty­po­graphy of the late 19th–early 20th cen­tury in gen­er­al, with all its vari­ous quirks from our mod­ern point of view. It has two char­ac­ter sets—Reg­u­lar and Ir­reg­u­lar. The first be­haves pre­dict­ably in the eye of the cur­rent read­er, while we put all those oddit­ies, some­times ex­ag­ger­ated, that we found in the ty­po­graphy of that era in­to the second.


Kazi­mir is a new typeface from CSTM Fonts (Ilya Ruder­man and Yuri Os­tro­ment­sky) and it is avail­able for pub­lic use. It is a stat­ic con­trast serif con­struc­ted on the basis of Rus­si­an book and magazine ty­po­graphy from the late 19th cen­tury. The typeface makes use of some of the char­ac­ter­ist­ic de­tails of Rus­si­an text faces that today seem ex­tra­vag­ant. These parts have been re­worked and ac­cen­tu­ated. Kazi­mir has two sets of al­pha­bet­ic char­ac­ters—Reg­u­lar and Ir­reg­u­lar. The lat­ter in­cludes un­usu­al al­tern­ates with de­tails that it is hard to ima­gine in a text typeface today, but they are quite suit­able for use at lar­ger point sizes.

We haven’t de­cided what our lib­rary will look like yet. We’ve agreed to pre­pare a col­lec­tion of un­fin­ished works for re­lease as part of this pro­ject. For ex­ample, I want to fi­nal­ise and re­lease Big City Sans. We’re go­ing to of­fer some fresh things that are be­ing act­ively de­ve­loped right now, as well as some designs from the archives that couldn’t be dis­trib­uted be­fore for one reas­on or an­oth­er. 

Back to the top­ic of edu­ca­tion. Was the Type and Ty­po­graphy course you or­gan­ised after com­ing back from The Hag­ue modeled on “Type and Me­dia”?

I don’t know any oth­er mod­els. Type and Me­dia has sev­er­al im­port­ant char­ac­ter­ist­ics as an edu­ca­tion­al course. Firstly, the ab­so­lute in­de­pend­en­ce of each teach­er. There’s a con­struc­ted pro­gramme, and every­one knows what hap­pens at which point and what is giv­en to stu­dents. But each teach­er is in­de­pend­ent in their com­ments on stu­dents’ works. This pro­fes­sion­al in­de­pend­en­ce is very im­port­ant. The course is more a plat­form for com­mu­nic­a­tion than a pur­pose­fully craf­ted path to a suc­cess­ful out­come. It’s not very close to the mod­ern Rus­si­an school as a high­er edu­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tion, where it seems like every­one should be part of a single pro­cess and con­tin­ue cer­tain tra­di­tions.

The “golden” teach­ers of the Type and Me­dia course are ex­perts re­spec­ted by the pro­fes­sion­al com­mu­nity. The Type and Ty­po­graphy course at the Brit­ish High­er School of Art and Design in Mo­scow is try­ing to bring to­geth­er some of the best ex­perts in the pro­fes­sion too, and in some ways may be sim­il­ar to Type and Me­dia. But we dif­fer in one very im­port­ant way: my course is a sup­ple­ment­ary adult edu­ca­tion pro­gramme, while the Dutch one is a Mas­ter’s de­gree with a daily timetable. Un­for­tu­nately, the Brit­ish School couldn’t af­ford to launch such a course, but the com­prom­ise is only on the part-time status of the stu­dents: the classes are in the even­ing and can be com­bined with a full-time job.

From the be­gin­ning, the course was in a unique situ­ation: stu­dents could have con­sec­ut­ive meet­ings with Vladi­mir Ye­fimov and Al­ex­an­der Tar­beev, which in any oth­er set­ting wouldn’t have been pos­sible. How was the aca­dem­ic staff of the “Type and Ty­po­graphy” course formed, and who are its main teach­ers today? 

The teach­ing staff of the course was nev­er set in stone and, seem­ingly, nev­er will be. There’s a nat­ur­al pro­cess of turnover among the lec­tur­ers. There’s a frame­work, but some po­s­i­tions change every year—some sub­jects are in­tro­duced, oth­ers are re­moved. In the early years, we act­ively taught pro­grams; there was an en­tire course de­voted to the study of Font­Lab and so on. I got rid of it a few years later, be­cause noth­ing teaches you a pro­gram as well as in­de­pend­ent work with it. Run­ning through the sub­tleties and but­tons in a couple of hours is usu­ally enough. Un­for­tu­nately, Vladi­mir Efimov, who lec­tured on the type his­tory course, passed away in 2012. Oth­ers left for reas­ons that wer­en’t as sad, such as Katya Koch­k­ina who went to study on the Type and Me­dia course last year; pri­or to that she did a great job of teach­ing the sketch­ing and cal­li­graphy block. Each year the course changes while keep­ing its over­all struc­ture and gen­er­al idea of what you need to get through and go through. Some­times, teach­ers just get tired of teach­ing, then come back to us with new ideas, fresh­er and miss­ing the work. Valery Go­lyzhen­kov took a break of two or three years. If I had my way, I’d take five years off too. But there’s enough time for me to start to miss the ba­sic course, be­cause at the mo­ment our in­take is once every oth­er year, so this two-year cycle al­lows me to take a break from the lec­tures in the ini­tial peri­od, which just have to be re­peated.

In gen­er­al, I don’t in­ter­fere in what teach­ers do with stu­dents with­in their own frag­ments. Be­fore, I was a bit wor­ried and tried to keep an eye on what’s go­ing on, but now I leave it com­pletely at the mercy of the teach­ers, and with ab­so­lute con­fid­en­ce in their know­ledge and ap­proach to­wards the top­ic. This free­dom is also seen at the ad­vanced stage, when stu­dents some­times get com­pletely con­tra­dict­ory com­ments about their gradu­ation pro­jects and end up at a loss as to what they should ac­tu­ally do. I think it’s a great achieve­ment in the Rus­si­an edu­ca­tion­al sys­tem—that there’s a course on which the stu­dents them­selves have to turn on their brains and make their own de­cisions, in­stead of march­ing in step with the trends of the school, the lead­er of the edu­ca­tion­al pro­cess or the lead­er of a cre­at­ive work­shop. I like that course is in­de­pend­ent in it­self. This even leads to me al­most not feel­ing grat­it­ude from the stu­dents in the end: they’re so con­fid­ent that they’ve really earned everything they’ve picked up and ac­quired. And I like that.

Now a ques­tion about the Mo­scow Design Stu­dio. What is it for you? A way to be in­de­pend­ent? How do you have the en­ergy to do so much: the design stu­dio, type foundry, edu­ca­tion­al course, fam­ily…?

When the RIA Nov­osti news agency was shut down after I’d worked in a large design team for three years, I knew it was time to try my hand at something else. For some reas­on, I thought that one busi­ness wasn’t enough, and I got in­volved in open­ing an­oth­er two—thank God that they wer­en’t com­pet­ing amongst them­selves! We have a beau­ti­ful cosy stu­dio where both Mo­scow Design Stu­dio and CSTM Fonts are based. We have some joint pro­jects and play table foot­ball to­geth­er. I can’t really talk about any sort of spe­cial in­de­pend­en­ce—we are de­pend­ent on the mar­ket like every­one else: if the mar­ket ex­per­i­en­ces a crisis, we tight­en our belts too, but things are still very pos­it­ive so far. There are a lot of in­ter­est­ing pro­jects, so we’re not los­ing heart.

How do I have the en­ergy? Of course, there’s a lot of things I don’t have time for—the kids are grow­ing in leaps and bounds, and I want to spend much more time with them to see all of their achieve­ments. However, the amount of stress is much lower than in the news agency, so I have more en­ergy left over.

What are you pay­ing at­ten­tion to in the type mar­ket at the mo­ment, or rather in the art of type?

I fol­low a short list of in­ter­est­ing de­sign­ers whose graph­ic ideas I really ap­pre­ci­ate. I keep track of Un­der­ware out of habit, al­though for quite a while they haven’t had any works as strik­ing as in 2001-2005, when they were just start­ing out and brought out fant­ast­ic pro­jects each year. Now I keep an eye on them with the hope that they’ll sur­prise us again. I work closely with Chris­ti­an Schwartz, who I’m a big fan of. Chris­ti­an cre­ates per­haps the most per­fect con­tours that have ever come in­to my hands. Nikola Djurek is not only my friend, but also the star of the last dec­ade—every one of his pro­jects is in­ter­est­ing and un­usu­al. I watch Peter Biľak, of course, who reg­u­larly pro­duces ori­gin­al, com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful in­nov­a­tions. I’m par­tial to my teach­ers’ works when they in­dulge us with in­ter­est­ing designs every now and then. Erik van Blok­land won over the pro­fes­sion­al com­mu­nity with his typeface Eames Cen­tury Mod­ern. He worked on it for a long time, but it is, of course, a dia­mond. I’m look­ing for­ward to see­ing what Hoe­fler and Frere-Jones do in­di­vidu­ally; they’re still ma­jor league pro­fes­sion­als.

It seems that this list does not in­clude any Rus­si­an de­sign­ers. Why is that?

Of course, I’m aware of all the nov­el­ties in Cyril­lic—there are so few of them that everything cre­ated by my col­leagues im­me­di­ately goes un­der the mag­ni­fy­ing glass. However, if you don’t align your­self with the world’s best de­sign­ers, there’s al­ways a risk of los­ing rel­ev­ance. And let’s not beat around the bush—it would be a gross ex­ag­ger­a­tion to call us lead­ers in the visu­al field, while glob­al cul­ture is reg­u­larly re­plen­ished with unique typefaces.

Ed­it­or­i­al Note

Be­fore the pub­lic­a­tion of this in­ter­view, we man­aged to get hold of (thanks to Hen­rik Ku­bel) samples of Mo­scow Sans, cre­ated for the Mo­scow trans­port sys­tem by Scott Wil­li­ams and Hen­rik Ku­bel of A2-TYPE. Mar­garet Cal­vert was a con­sult­ant on the type and pic­to­grams, Ilya Ruder­man ad­vised on Cyril­lic design. Late last year, design stu­dio Billings Jack­son Design pub­lished its pro­ject for com­pany City­ID, which was ful­filling an or­der for the Mo­scow De­part­ment of Trans­port. The ex­perts at City­ID had pre­vi­ously de­signed nav­ig­a­tion­al sys­tems for cit­ies such as Bris­tol and New York. The up­dated nav­ig­a­tion­al posts and sig­nage have been vis­ible at sev­er­al Mo­scow metro sta­tions since late last year. Ac­cord­ing to pre­lim­in­ary plans, the en­tire metro should be equipped with the new nav­ig­a­tion sys­tem by the end of 2015, and it will then be ex­ten­ded to the above ground trans­port sys­tem. An over­view of the pro­ject was pos­ted on Arch Daily on 20 Janu­ary 2015.