I recently came across a rather unique open font design contest happening at a country-wide level in the Ukraine. The goals of this contest were to help revive - in a practical way - the distinctive traditions of the Ukrainian language through the creation of a custom high-quality font family. The resulting font could then be made widely available to the general public and not limited to typography connoisseurs only.

The contest was organized and funded by the  Mystetskyi Arsenal, a large museum and cultural institution with the help of the  Stairsfor design studio. Over 50 font designers from different backgrounds (professional unions, companies, and independent foundries) have contributed their skills by engaging with the idea of creating a quality and unrestricted font that would be distinctively Ukrainian.

You can read more about the motivation and ideas behind the contest, as well as the event itself, in the Ukrainian press: The Day - Ukraine is working on its fonts and  The Day - Ukraine has its own font now.

The winner of the contest is designer Andrij Shevchenko from  Andrij Type, and his creation, called Arsenal, is now released under the  Open Font License on  Ukrainian-type.com.

Beyond the coverage of the needed characters, this font also provides various smart features like alternates, stylistic sets, small caps and ligatures, and it looks like a version specifically designed for use on the web is in preparation to make it easier to bring distinctive Ukrainian typography to more websites.

This contest strikes me as an elegant and creative way to bring together the practical need for fonts in daily use and the desire to cultivate and promote typographic and historical heritage. Establishing a common standard via the creation of a custom open font is likely to be a tremendous boost to many speakers of the language in their daily life. This font is quite likely to take on a life of its own thanks to its unrestricted licensing model, and this gives Arsenal the potential to help the Ukrainian language develop a more prominent and distinctive presence on new media and new means of communication.

Maybe other countries will be inspired to do something similar for their own languages and follow in the footsteps of the Arsenal font project?