A recent addition to the Nokia Pure family has been the Armenian script, used by about 6 million speakers of the Armenian language. Our Lead Designer on the Armenian project was Francesca Bolognini, who tells us more about the process behind the design.
A lot of people have probably never seen the Armenian script. Can you tell us a little about it?
is fascinating because it's a bit of an historical oddity. It was
designed in the 5th Century by the monk Mesrop Mashtots, who was
commissioned to preserve Armenian culture in the face of conflicts and
invasions, which were commonplace at the time. He probably didn't invent
the complete alphabet from scratch, but definitely managed to assemble
things in perfect order.
such, the script is both young and strongly associated with a proud
cultural identity. Historical Armenian - with 38 characters and a very
interesting form of punctuation - is easy to identify, with its strong
vertical stresses and high contrast within and between characters.
Sometimes it can even have the feel of a stencil type. However the
rigidity is broken gracefully with flowing horizontal or diagonal
nature of the script brings interesting challenges for designers. A
strong feature of the script is the frequent repetition in the uppercase
and lowercase of shapes like the u, o, n, and m. These shapes create
quite a rigid texture, so spacing and the right proportions are crucial
for the design of the Armenian.
How did you approach the design for Nokia Pure Armenian?
first I had to get familiar with the alphabet. I mean that in the most
basic sense: simply learning the names of each letter and how to write
each by hand. I then carried out a more in-depth analysis of Armenian
typography, and its development over time.
this period I constantly posed questions to our consultants, type
designer and native speaker, Khajag Apelian, and expert in Armenian
typography, Carolyn Puzzovio, who were very helpful with their comments
and opinions, making sure that I stayed on track.
How did you ensure that the Armenian design worked with the other Pure scripts?
me, harmonizing different scripts is a matter of staying focused on the
overall colour and flavour of the type. This is a delicate balancing
act as you need to stay within all the combined, and often conflicting,
limits of the typographic conventions that come with each individual
script. That's where the art lies - a mechanical repetition of shapes
and assignment of proportions simply doesn't work! Each script has its
own rules, history and rhythm.
synthesis is probably the most difficult part of the project. It
involves continual testing and comparison. It’s important to us that
each script works well with the others in the 'family' so that a clear
and unique identity emerges, one that is obvious to everyone who sees
it, regardless of whether someone can read that language or not.
What was it like working with mobile phone giants, Nokia?
enough Nokia are one of the nicest and most patient clients we work
with, a perception very much at odds with the idea of a global giant!
They gave us the opportunity to learn and explore our design capacity in
this area. I like to think that this trust is a continuation from the
relationship established early on during the Nokia Pure project.
Did the Armenian script pose any particular problems?
challenges, but no problems. To give an example - in Armenian the
question, exclamation and emphasis marks are added only on top of the
vowels. This is valid for the Uppercase and Lowercase so the position of
these characters is above the height of the caps. We thought it would
be an improvement to add a stylistic set of question, exclamation and
emphasis marks that would fit more with the height of the lowercase, so
there would not be a big gap between the lowercase vowels and the
Which bit of the design is your favourite?
design is often about compromise, and for me this is one of the
greatest values of our job. Sacrificing, for example, the nice letter
for the best form of all. In the drawings it’s possible to see the
problem we were facing with the letter 'now'. This process of selection,
testing and verifying is probably my favourite part of the job. The
Armenian design is particularly full of this sort of challenge due to
the nature of the script.