2018 Communications Design Competition Judge’s Choice: Global Alphabet Book

During the competition judging last January, we ask each of our eleven TDC competition judges to choose their favorite from all the entries. Natasha Jen chose Global Alphabet, a book designed by Yuliana Gorkorov that features her alphabet design that is readable to people from different cultures – a project that also earned Yuliana the top student award in this year’s competition.

About Global Alphabet

Yuliana Gorkorov’s Global Alphabet.

  • Designer: Yuliana Gorkorov, Essen, Germany
  • Website:
  • Professors for book design: Ralf de Jong and Christin Heinze
  • Professors for font design: Ralf de Jong, Natascha Dell, and Christin Heinze
  • School: Folkwang University of the Arts
  • Principal Type: Abjad Lino, Akrofont, ApocalypsA, Arno Pro, BABEL2014, and LATAR

Designer’s statement: “In our globalized, digitized world, people from different cultures communicate with one another daily. We speak different languages and many words can be understood by all of us, but such words are unrecognizable when written in foreign alphabets. The Latin, Cyrillic, Hebrew, and Arabic alphabets look unrelated, despite their shared historical origin.

For five years, I looked for the best way to reunite them in a new alphabet that would be readable to people from different cultures. The results are five fonts presented in Global Alphabet. This book shows how such fonts can be integrated in our daily life.

To extend the scope of the book and to make it interactive, I used foldout pages and augmented reality.”

Comments by Communications Design Judge Natasha Jen

“Unrecognizable yet familiar. Seemingly ancient yet contemporary. Exact yet wildly imaginative. Centered yet expansive.

Pages from Yuliana Gorkorov’s Global Alphabet.

The Global Alphabet book stood out for its almost-alien beauty, as it wasn’t anything that could be easily categorized by conventional typographic standards. The project attempted to look at possible ways to unite Latin, Cyrillic, Hebrew, and Arabic — writing systems that share the same root of Phoenician alphabet. The results were five different fonts, each is a blended experiment of two languages.

Being someone who doesn’t speak any of the four languages, I can’t judge the linguistic or the semiotic aspects of the experiment, but utility seems the least important thing.

What’s most interesting to me is the multi-layered ambition. This is not a simple typographic form exercise. This is also a linguistic exercise that challenges how we understand languages. How is meaning created? What’s the relationship between the meaning and the words? How does a character work in human cognition? Can it serve the same meaning and purpose once its form is radically changed? If culture plays a role in the representation of an alphabet, can we tinker with the latter to test cultural proximity?

So many questions.

There’s a level of novelty here that’s extremely creative, yet there’s real complexity and scholarship that makes the project one of its kind. What’s genius about the typographic drawings is how it meticulously breaks down the formal and semantic essences of each language, layer by layer, or stroke by stroke, then some of the relational elements get combined and hybridized. This taxonomical approach in a way transcends the foreignness of the languages, in a surreally yet universally communicative way, and that ties it all back to the very nature of typography: to communicate.

I salute Yuliana Gorkorov for the ingenuity she has demonstrated in this project. It’s a masterpiece.”

About Natasha Jen

Natasha Jen is a graphic designer and partner at Pentagram New York. Born in Taipei, Taiwan, her work is recognized for its innovative use of graphic, digital, and spatial interventions that challenge the critical bounding assumptions surrounding media and culture. In 2015, Natasha was named one of the “World’s Nine Leading Designers” by Wired magazine. She serves on the Board of Directors for Storefront for Art & Architecture, and AIGA New York and has been a guest critic at Yale University School of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, and Maryland Institute College of Art.

Follow Natasha online: Website | Instagram | Twitter

Portrait: Natasha Jen.