Marija Juza & Nikola Đurek awarded for Balkan typeface in New York

place: New York, USA
Designers and typographers Marija Juza and Nikola Đurek are this year’s recipients of prestigious Design Typography Excellence by Type Directors Club from New York for their typeface Balkan.

Balkan is a new typeface system that consists of Latin and Cyrillic scripts. It is based on the study of a phenomenon known as Balkan sprachbund, a term used to describe neighboring languages whose sound and grammatical features have merged because of their proximity. The typeface system also represents an attempt to identify the features shared by some South Slavic languages and alphabets like Bosnian, Montenegrin, Croatian and Serbian.


Designers are focused on the dual-literacy that characterizes Slavic peoples, many of whom use and transliterate both Latin and Cyrillic alphabets.Historically, there were three scripts in this region: Cyrillic, Latin and Glagolitic. The use of Latin and Cyrillic typifies the former Yugoslavian countries, today’s Serbia, Bosnia and Hercegovina as well as Montenegro.

Historically, both scripts in this region were bearers of cultural, ethnic, religious and political identities, but their communicative and symbolic functions were often out of step just for the sake of multi-ethnicity. On the other hand, close development of languages and scripts throughout history resulted in shared properties. Today some regional languages in the Western Balkans are so similar that they can even be thought of as dialects.

The Balkan typeface system is a series of fonts that decodes Latin and Cyrillic; it demystifies, depoliticizes and reconciles them for the sake of education, tolerance and, above all, communication. Though Balkan is a “font” in the usual sense, it can also be used to translate Croatian Latin into Serbian Cyrillic and vice versa. One could therefore think of the fonts as educational software capable of reconciling discrete scripts. Like all OpenType fonts, Balkan can be expanded to include the Russian, Macedonian and Bulgarian alphabets.

Balkan Sans and Balkan Sans Stencil consist of four styles – three of them have different alignments (e.g., all uppercase characters are Latin and lowercase characters are Cyrillic) and one style consists of uppercase Cyrillic and lowercase Latin characters.

There are several theories about the origin and meaning of the word “Balkan”. It is believed to be Turkish and, when translated, means “mountain” or “mountain forests”. “Balkan” also describesthe historical and vaguely defined geographic and cultural region of Southeastern Europe. As apolitical concept, it is mostly linked to the countries that emerged from the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Nowadays the term “Balkan” also refers to Southeastern Europe.

Balkan sprachbund is a term for a community of unrelated languages; those commonly referred to as “Indo-European” (e.g., Albanian, Greek, Romani, Turkish, South Slavic and Romance languages). Despite their cultural differences, these languages have come to share the same grammatical and phonological features because they are written and spoken by people from those regions.

(D.H., 20.04.2012)