In 2015 Google asked us to contribute to their growing library of open-source web fonts. The scope of the project envisaged the development of a Latin and Gujarati type system in multiple weights. Contrary to the conventional method of starting the design from scratch, we chose to explore the idea of design as redesign, using existing typefaces as points of departure.
For Latin, lead designer Anna Giedryś chose the open-source typeface Merriweather from Google’s library as a starting point. By way of redesign, she substantially changed key proportions and redrew most of its contours. The result, Yrsa, is a distinguished typeface intended for long-form texts (e.g. on blogs or publishing platforms like Medium). It has a clean, soft-spoken presence and even rhythm, a quality that aids continuous reading.
Rasa is a typeface for Indian users. Besides Latin, it supports Indian languages that use the Gujarati script. Like Yrsa, it originated from an existing design, Skolar Gujarati by David Březina. The proportion and styling of the Gujarati was adapted to match Yrsa’s Latin and work together harmoniously. The fonts include several hundreds of glyphs, including the required syllabic combinations (conjuncts), and extensive programming required to make the Gujarati script work automatically.
In 2020–2021, Yrsa and Rasa received a major update. We added a substantial set of glyphs to the uprights of both type families so we could provide wider language support (over 331 languages), including full support for Vietnamese. While we were at it, we also threw in additional stylistic sets of numerals and quite a few monetary symbols. On top of all this, we finally released the highly anticipated and often requested italics for the Latin script. Unlike the uprights, the italics were designed completely from scratch, giving the family a distinctive touch. Optimized for screen and online use, Yrsa is now a well-rounded text typeface. Rasa received only a minor maintenance update and an addition of glyphs to support the Avestan language. Both families come with variable fonts!
The process was documented in a series of detailed blogposts:
Anna Giedryś is a type and graphic designer based in Brno, Czechia. She holds a Master of Arts in graphic design and visual communication from the Sign and Typography Studio at the University of Fine Arts in Poznań, but she first fell in love with calligraphy and lettering while on exchange at Vilnius Fine Arts Academy. She’s been drawing type ever since, and now channels this passion into working on custom and retail fonts at Rosetta. Here, Anna is also responsible for the marketing and presentation of our fonts, and has and played a key role in the development of the company since its early days.
Art-direction, design: David Březina
David Březina is the managing director at Rosetta. While you may know him as the designer of the award-winning type family Skolar, he has also worked on custom typefaces for Adobe, Linotype (Monotype), Microsoft, Google, and others. So far, he has designed typefaces for Cyrillic, Greek, Gujarati, Devanagari, and various extensions of Latin. David holds a Master’s degree in computer science from Masaryk University in Brno (Czechia) and an MA in Typeface Design and PhD from the University of Reading (UK). His cross-disciplinary PhD thesis studied visual similarity and coherence of characters in typefaces for continuous reading in Latin, Cyrillic, and Devanagari scripts.
He has also been actively involved in writing, presenting, and conducting workshops on type and typography around the world.