A fresh take on Cyrillic has been making the rounds online: the typeface, Mak, has drawn attention not only for its unusual shapes, but also for its “underground” origins. Editor Lucas Czarnecki sat down with Mak’s designer, Valentyn Tkachenko, to learn more.
LC: If you can remember a specific moment, when and why did you get interested in type design?
VT: I’m taking a year-long course on Visual Communications at Projector Creative and Tech School in Kyiv, Ukraine. Once the course kicked off, we were given our first project—to design a typeface. Over the next 3 months, we closely studied every aspect of the type design process.
What’s the story behind Mak?
While working on this project I was deeply immersed in Ukrainian underground music. It overwhelmed my heart, head, and ears. Like many designers, I can’t imagine my life without music.
I am interested in how different people develop different music tastes. I prefer the experimental style of music, and in Ukraine, this kind of music is widespread in various manifestations. Among all that variety, modern experimental music with Ukrainian folk songs’ motives is quite unique and, in my opinion, outstanding. These songs have a long history and beautiful sound. Music creators like YUKO, ONUKA, Alina Pash, Dakha Brakha, Khayat are similar to visual designers, as they experiment with the sound, combine different cultural contexts, rethink historical backgrounds, and come up with unbelievably great songs.
This kind of music experimentation became my greatest inspiration and formed the basis of the «Mak» font. I tried to replicate their musical processes when crafting the typeface. I wanted to mix and play with the historical shapes of Ukrainian Cyrillic Type, different styles, constructions of trendy typefaces, and see what would result. My experiment resulted in a sophisticated combination of Ukrainian typography tradition and a bold modern look. I think its unique shapes make it look dissimilar to any typefaces created before.
What was your process for creating the typeface?
I started by looking for an interesting type concept, which in Ukrainian historical typeface designs. What really caught my eye were specifically Ukrainian type features, which I wanted to improve on and play with.
How and why did you decide to release Mak for free?
It just felt right to do this way. First of all, because it’s a student project, and second of all, because it’s my first completed typeface design.
What is your favorite example of Mak being used out in the world?
Since the typeface has been released quite recently, I don’t have any examples of the typeface in use so far. But I’m hoping I’ll come across some soon.
What do you hope to accomplish with type design?
Whereas users of Latin alphabets have a great choice of typeface variations, Ukrainians do not. That’s why my main goal is to take part in improving not-so-perfect Cyrillic letters, such that our alphabet can thrive with unique features and typeface variations too. That is my hope for the near future.