Hellvetica typeface terrifies graphic designers with blood-curdling kerning
- Jenny Brewer
- 30 October 2019
After an invitation to the office Halloween party themed Hellvetica dropped into his inbox, Zack Roif – associate creative director at R/GA New York – wanted to take the knowingly nerdy designer in-joke further by making it a reality. He reached out to colleague Matthew Woodward, also an ACD at the agency, and together they made Hellvetica, a typeface “like Helvetica, but with like, much shittier kerning for Halloween”.
The type is designed to strike fear in the hearts of graphic designers everywhere, with painfully uneven gaps between letterforms, ranging from huge, glaring spaces you could drive a bus through, to non-existent spacing which causes characters to overlap, or – worse still – almost touch, but for a pixel. Shudder
The designers helpfully provide “real world examples” of how the type could be applied to well-known uses of Helvetica to ruin brands on a grander scale, for example on the Target and American Apparel word marks. It also shows the full alphabet by giving a ubiquitous sentence a spine-tingling twist: “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog and into the underworld”. The hellishness continues into numerical figures and symbols too, rejoice!
Since its launch, Hellvetica has been irritating designers around the world, while others have found schadenfreudian joy in using the type on well-known identities, such as Panasonic, American Airlines and even the New York Subway system signage. Others joked about reporting the tweet (presumably for crimes against design). Roif and Woodward even have posthumous “quotes” on the Hellvetica site from the likes of Massimo Vignelli (who designed the NY Subway and American Airlines identities) saying “This looks like shit” and Max Miedinger, designer of Helvetica, asking “What have you done?” In contrast, Satan has been quoted saying “I don’t hate it”.
Meanwhile, Roif capped the Instagram account at 666 followers, for fittingly satanic reasons, as the likes on Twitter racked up to the tens of thousands. Clearly there’s a market for terrible design, especially at the spookiest time of the year.
About the Author
After five years as It’s Nice That’s news editor, Jenny became online editor in June 2021, overseeing the website’s daily editorial output.
Jenny is currently on maternity leave.