They may not draw it out word-for-word, but Polish entrepreneurs Joasia Fidler-Wieruszewska, Alina Rybacka-Gruszczynska and Aga Kotowska have a unique message that’s loud and clear. With their recent project 33 Letters for Ukraine, the trio of artists harnessed the power of design and language to express solidarity with the people of Ukraine.
“Even though it’s commonly said that ‘Design won’t change the world,’ I think that we still have a chance to influence society, for example by creating a more inclusive environment, or by simply inspiring and educating about other cultures,” says Fidler-Wieruszewska, describing the spirit of their project.
Inspired by 36 Days of Type, the Polish artists rounded up more than 30 type designers by invitation and open call to participate in 33 Letters for Ukraine. With an increased presence of the Ukrainian language in their hometowns, the artists were encouraged to use Cyrillic script as their subject. “We wanted to familiarize ourselves with the language to connect better with the Ukrainians now living in Poland, and to be able to read and draw the Cyrillic script now that it’s more present in public spaces here.”
Participants were challenged to create unique type designs for the 33 letters of the Cyrillic alphabet—a script that many were encountering for the first time. “There were no guidelines—it was a free interpretation of the subject,” adds Fidler-Wieruszewska.
As a result, they dove into the roots of Cyrillic letters and drew on different inspirations, knowledge, and techniques for their designs. From playful type and Gothic letters, to cubist alphabets and folk art inspired illustrations, letter by letter 33 Letters for Ukraine brought the Ukrainian language to life.
It was important for the founders to invite Ukrainian designers as well as international artists in order to broaden the project’s visibility and messaging. The roster of international guests included Maxim Dosca, Nikolas Wrobel, Pangram Pangram, Polytype Foundry, Hermes Mazali, and Yotam Kellner. “We were grateful to see that the project quickly reached designers outside of our own community—the very thought of how many people wanted to co-create this project and get united for a good cause was uplifting for us.”
“We use the alphabet to write the language in which we are communicating. Without the knowledge of a given script, we can’t connect with its users. This is why, for me, the alphabet is a meaningful subject, “ says Fidler-Wieruszewska. The three founders of the project also contributed to the design challenge, and others spontaneously joined, or supported who were moved by the cause.
It’s no surprise that what started out as a spontaneous Instagram challenge has morphed into an ongoing project for Fidler-Wieruszewska, Rybacka-Gruszczynska and Kotowska. Two of the three are graduates of Wix Playground Academy, where their cause was noticed. With the help and support of Wix’s in-house agency, they recently designed and launched a website for 33 Letters for Ukraine.
They are also preparing for an online fundraiser, and will sell prints of the type designs to further raise money for Ukraine. Inspired to continue their contributions to the art and design community, they’ll continue to teach Polish designers Cyryllic script and host workshops on how to read and draw the lettering, alongside Ukrainian type designers.