Cyrillic on Google Fonts: Didones

Here’s the sixth episode of our series (and the third one about serifs)

July 11, 2023






Today, a free font doesn’t necessarily mean a bad one. Sadly, things are much worse with free Cyrillic than with Latin; but there is also some good news. Our critique and our advice do not have a monopoly on the truth — that’s just an expert review by three professionals sharing the same values. Plus, you always have to remember that there is no such thing as forbidden means and tools in design. Any bug can be turned into a feature in the hands of a daring, confident typographer, — only before taking risks, you should figure out what this bug actually is.

Previously on Google Fonts series

Old-Style Serifs
Geometric Sans
Humanist Sans
Transitional Serifs

What is a Didone, or modern serif?

Those are serif typefaces influenced by drawing and engraving processes. They emerged in the period of late Neoclassicism and Realism (in the late 18th century). This type of letterforming doesn’t have to do with the writing process directly, however the contrast in such typefaces reflects the logic of writing by a pointed nib. Didones are characterised by vertical orientation of weight axes, closed aperture, ball terminals, strong contrast, narrow serifs — however, modern interpretations might drift away from those typical features.




IBM Plex Serif

Mike Abbink, Bold Monday, Alexandra Samulenkova

A pair to the neo-grotesque IBM Plex, Plex Serif applies a similar approach to graphics and letterforming. Design of both typefaces addresses the history of IBM, citing its graphic artifacts and generally attempting to reflect the role of the company as a medium between human and machine.



Hands-on IBM Plex Serif’s design directly refers to the classic logo of IBM: square serifs, sharp angles in vertical strokes, vertical segments in bowls. As is the case with its sans relative, the combination of rational and emotional is manifested through the contrast between rounded and angular-geometric elements.


Ball terminals, square serifs, and vertical axis are borrowed from the classic modern serif Bodoni — this typeface is mentioned as a source of inspiration for IBM Plex Serif’s Roman face.


The italic style — true, independent of the Roman face, — is greatly influenced by the transitional serif Janson, which is obvious from V-shaped serifs as well as the nature of the font’s arcs and bowls. The slope angle in the italic style is not random either — it was chosen to be better displayed on a pixel grid.

Considering how many things impacted IBM Plex Serif’s design, its authors classify their typeface as a ‘hybrid serif’.

IBM Plex Serif includes only standard tabular figures with alternates, subscripts and superscripts, lots of ready-made fractions, currency signs, and essential mathematical symbols.

Styles 7 weights ranging from Thin to Bold with italics.


Cyrillic The typeface is equipped with high-quality and balanced Cyrillic, with a smart choice of structures and solutions.


Different designs of lowercase and uppercase Чч seem a bit weird.


As the weight increases, certain issues arise in accents for Ukrainian.


Crossbars in some parts of Њњ in Serbian and Macedonian languages are placed on various levels.


Our advice

IBM Plex Sans is a quality typeface for a wide range of purposes, yet its Cyrillic language support has a certain number of issues.

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Ivan Petrov, Cyreal

It is a display Didone with an unconventional approach to detail: distinctive ‘organic’ ball terminals and confident triangular serifs, contrasting with thin hairlines.


Hands-on A really decent quality of curves, proportions and a smart approach to letter spacing. The typeface’ parameters — fairly low x-height, high contrast and tight setting — are a good fit for display and large size purposes.

Rigid links between arcs and vertical strokes somewhat contrast against smooth links in oval characters.


The only Roman style supports extended Latin and Cyrillic and includes regular proportional figures, a bare minimum of fractions, and currency signs.

Cyrillic Of high quality, natural, with relevant display structures.



Despite its wide character set, the typeface won’t do for setting in Tajik or Abkhaz languages because it doesn’t include Ҳҳ characters.


A serif terminal in the Ukrainian є looks unusual, plus there is a number of common issues with accents.

Our advice

Prata cannot boast a wide range of options or a great amount of styles — but this is still a typeface of reasonable quality which could be of use for display purposes.

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Old Standard TT

Alexey Kryukov

The typeface recreates the general nature of Classicist typefaces of the 19th century — the author suggests that Old Standard TT may work for setting scientific papers (especially when it comes to social and human sciences), given the tendency to use such typefaces by old science literature.


Despite the subjectivity of this approach, the typeface does really have certain associations to the past: it borrows graphics from and flirts with the name of the popular Soviet typeface Obyknovennaya Novaya.

Hands-on Strong contrast, low x-height, narrow lowercase characters are not exactly the qualities you look for in a text typeface.

The Old Standard has poor-quality curves and wrinkled outlines.


Forms and details are inconsistent in various weights.


As for the character set, it supports extended Latin and Cyrillic (with the latter also featuring Early Cyrillic letters); it is fitted with tabular figures, lots of ready-made fractions, sets of numerators and denominators, mathematical symbols, currency signs, arrows.

Styles Old Standard comes in three styles: Regular with italics and Bold.


Excessive letter spacing is obvious in the Bold style.

Cyrillic The Cyrillic structures are predictable and correspond to what we’re used to see in historic specimens of Didones; however, the way they were executed is not ideal.


The upper right ball terminal of к is corrupt, the tail in б is too high and too light.


Upper horizontal arm in ъ is too long. Too much roundness over the right descenders in Дд Цц and related characters. A similar roundness in the upper left angle of Дд and Лл ruins the diagonal stroke even more — this heaviness could be way more relevant on the external part of the serif.


There are some issues in terms of letter spacing — both too loose (зъ) and too tight (ъю). Lowercase and uppercase are significantly different in weight.


The lack of system in the way how the widths were solved is particularly obvious in uppercase — narrow И, М, К stay next to really wide Б, Ъ, З (however, this is something you find in the Obyknovennaya Novaya as well). Upper serifs in Б and Ъ are too heavy, and both glyphs do have broken bowls.


All four Ч are different, and each has its own problem: the uppercase in the regular style has a really unfortunate curved arc, plus its waist is too high, while the Bold style’s arc has an unsuccessful form, too, yet it’s squarish and geometric. Lowercase characters don’t resemble corresponding uppercases, and neither do they resemble each other, with both having too much white space on the left.


Italics look more consistent than the upright style in lowercase, because the elements repeat each other — yet all the issues of the Roman face are reproduced in uppercase.


For some reason, the Ққ (which exist in Kazakh, Tajik, Abkhaz, Uzbek languages) use an italic structure of the descender.


The length of the serif in T-part of Serbian characters ЋЂ is not optimised. An overly whimsical structure in ђ — with an ornate ascender and a too low crossbar and arc.

Our advice

This is a mediocre revival with an ill-conceived set of parameters, rather poor quality of curves and design. It would hardly be the best possible choice for any task.

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Denis Masharov

According to its description, Ledger is a concise multiple-purpose typeface with a focus on readability when used in unfavourable print and display processes and its distinctive graphics makes it suitable for display typography and corporate branding.


Hands-on The parameters and graphics of Ledger seem to contradict its designated purposes: the x-height is rather small, the contrast is relatively high, while the open aperture (which is supposed to increase readability) is undermined by heavy serifs.


There are certain issues with location and design of accents — in some characters they drift to the left.

The typographic opportunities that this font offers are actually scarce: only regular proportional figures without any fractions, subscripts or superscripts, a minimum of currency signs (no ruble symbol), only the essential punctuation.

Cyrillic Cyrillic Ledger clearly has poor quality — first of all, the approach to rhythm is fundamentally different from that in Latin.


Cyrillic looks considerably tighter, letter spacing is much smaller, both in lower and upper case. The vertical characters show noticeably more contrast than the oval characters — and the oval characters look even denser than the rest of them.

You’d have issues with almost any character design.


The tail in б is too short, too crooked, lacking contrast.


Ф is uncompensated and overly wide. The upper stroke in  looks cut.


Latin Kk with a full-fledged serif looks better.


A left vertical stroke in Мм is too thin, while its diagonal stroke is too thick. Triangular structures of Дд and Лл do not look stylistically reasonable. The Дд’ baseline is excessively wide, whereas its descenders are too short and light — the same is true for both Цц and Щщ. The bowls in ь ы ъ я seem flattened. Й features a Latin breve instead of a Cyrillic one.


There’s hardly any contrast between strokes in this У, and it looks too dark; the form of the ч’s arc misleadingly copies the Latin u, while я’s leg is in the wrong place; then there’s the already mentioned problem of descenders in щ and related characters. There’s a hole between У and ч — while е and с look stuck together.


The uppercase Ч has the opposite problem than it is the case with the lowercase — its arc doesn’t have any curve whatsoever.


Some of the Serbian Cyrillic inherits the issues of the basic characters’ design (Ћ), while the others are simply unbalanced (Њ); the setting appears ragged, with lots of holes between letters.

Our advice

The typeface has plenty of mistakes in its Cyrillic part; it should not be used.

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Brygada 1918

Mateusz Machalski, Borys Kosmynka, Ania Wieluńska, Przemysław Hoffer, Capitalics

Brygada 1918 is a project created to celebrate the 100 years of the independence of the Republic of Poland in 2018. It is a revival project based on the catalogue entry of the National Type Foundry from 1954 and matrices found by Janusz Tryzno in the Book Art Museum in Lodz. The historic prototype of the typeface was most likely created during the interwar period in the type foundry Odlewni Czcionek Idźkowski i S-ka in Warsaw.


Hands-on A quite small x-height, long ascenders/descenders, a pronounced contrast — those parameters will definitely not work for the smallest sizes, but, generally, the graphics is rather simple and enables wide application, including on screens.

Language support: Latin, Cyrillic, Greek — each comes with small caps: the character set includes regular and text figures (proportional and tabular), fractions, sets of numerators and denominators, math symbols, currency signs, arrows and icons, as well as super- and subscripts, both figures and letters, and not just in Latin (however, Cyrillic super- and subscripts are rare).

Styles 4 weights ranging from Regular до Bold, each fitted with italics.


Cyrillic Cyrillic Brygada 1918 is not based on any historic specimens. Its quality is rather poor, and you can tell the lack of confidence by both the choice of structures and the work with forms.


Кк and Жж look unbalanced and unfocused. б has an overcompensated bowl which is drifted to the right, and its tail is too long and inarticulate. Lowercase ф appears as if it couldn’t decide between two different structures.


З copies 3, lacking distinctive horizontal stroke in the bowls’ link.


A link between an arc and a stem in Чч is too thick. Дд are too narrow with excessively long descenders — and the ones in Цц and Щщ are exactly like that.


A different logic of terminals in э and з looks odd. The link of the bowl with the leg in я is too heavy.


The horizontal stroke in ъ is too long, forming a hole on the left. A disbalance of white space in м — diagonal strokes are too close to vertical ones.


A number of issues in the Roman face made it to the italics — the same issues with the bowl and tail in б; к which drifts to the right (in italics, it is the only character that kept its serifs symmetrical), ъ has a very long horizontal stroke. There’s also a huge amount of mistakes in uppercase.


The lower part of Ђ is wrinkled — the elements are too close together.


Typical issues with accents for the Ukrainian.

Our advice

Brygada 1918 is an interesting project as regards research and type heritage revival, yet its Cyrillic loses to Latin in terms of quality. So don’t use it.

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