Greek ligatures and Serbian Cyrillic:
Jovica Veljović’s Agmena

Agmena Title

Working with a typeface designed by Jovica Veljović is not without its challenges as the multivarious stylistic alternatives, the context-specific ligatures, swash letters and linguistic idiosyncrasies need to be made conformable to the appropriate OpenType features. You’ll find hints on the potential range of applications of Agmena elsewhere at and the blog. In this article, we look more closely at the numerous small extras that this typeface offers.

Prior to the development of OpenType, alternate characters, such as small caps and swash letters, had to be supplied in separate font files. This would have meant that, in the case of Agmena, several fonts would have been required per weight. However, with OpenType, this is no longer necessary. There is still a problem in that not all applications support the same features. ‘I love typography’, for example, provides a helpful tabular overview of the features that are supported by individual applications.

We have recently received a larger number of enquiries on how to access certain alternate glyphs and have so decided to summarise the various special OpenType features of Agmena and how to use these. It is possible, for example, to employ several features simultaneously in order to make a headline more attention-grabbing:

Agmena Headline

For all font weights, there are ligatures, old-style numerals and small caps that can be used to set texts in Roman, Cyrillic and Greek letters. However, most of the alternate glyphs are not designed for the setting of extensive passages of text, but only for use in headlines or shorter paragraphs. Because the italics have a calligraphic feel, the designer decided to supply swash letters and a larger number of ligatures for these weights only.

The following features are available for the regular and italic weights:
• descretional ligatures
• stylistic alternates (stylistic set 1)
• terminal forms (also in stylistic set 2)

The following features are available for italics only:
• initial forms (also in stylistic set 3)
• swashes
• Serbian alternates

There are several ways to access these special features. It can often be useful to define a paragraph or character style with the help of layout software and then specify what features are to be used. The example below is for Adobe InDesign, in which features can be selected via the ‘Character’ panel:

InDesign OpenType-Features

As it is only possible to select initial or final forms through the menu item ‘Positional Forms’, the corresponding glyphs have also been made available in stylistic sets 2 and 3. This means that both can be selected simultaneously.

It was important for Jovica Veljović to ensure that his Greek characters retained a calligraphic flavour and he thus designed a particularly large number of ligatures for this language that could be used to emphasize the text flow:

Agmena Greek

There are also alternate glyphs for Cyrillic characters:

The Cyrillic italics use the letter forms characteristic of Serbian and there are only very few digital fonts that offer this feature. Serbian Cyrillic is set as default. If the language selection for a paragraph or a whole document is changed to Russian in layout, the Russian variants will be automatically displayed. The Serbian variant of the character ‘б’ is present in the character set but has not been set as the default character at the wish of the designer.

Agmena Serbian Cyrillic

Another of Jovica Veljović’s major concerns when designing his typeface was to provide for excellent legibility in longer text passages. He showed his first drafts to the Swiss typographer Max Caflisch. Caflisch was impressed, but at the same time advised him to reduce the height of the capitals relative to that of the ascenders so that the typeface could be more readily used to set larger text quantities. Although ascenders that extend too far can impair legibility, they can have a decorative appearance when used to set shorter texts, such as poems.
For this reason, two of the Agmena weights now come with an exclusive feature: Italic and Book Italic have a ‘Poetry Variant’ – a Roman alphabet with longer ascenders and descenders specifically designed for setting poetic texts.

Agmena Poetry

These character variants are available only in stylistic set 4 of Italic and Book Italic, and they are particularly effective when used in combination with swash letters and final forms. The update is already available. If you have already purchased the two weights, you need only download them again to acquire the update.
Agmena has been designed to support as many languages as possible and thus includes for example, the accents required to set texts in Kazakh. The update also provides the tone marks required to set texts in Pinyin, a phonetic transcription method for the Chinese language.

Agmena Pinyin

Spoken standard or ‘Mandarin’ Chinese uses four different so-called tones. When Latin characters rather than Chinese are used to set a Chinese text as an aid to pronunciation, four tone marks are used to indicate the particular vowel tone. In the case of Agmena, these are supplied for all the vowels.
If Agmena is to be used together with Chinese characters to set a text, the styles Songti/Sungti (such as Monotype Sung Simplified Chinese / Traditional Chinese) or Kaiti (such as Monotype Kai Simplified Chinese / Traditional Chinese) make a good match.

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