Killer: a gothic stencil font in the circus tradition…?

I’ve never created a commercially available font. Who needs another typeface? Well. A few people at least I hope. I certainly still buy interesting fonts when I see them. After all, it’s not always about what you need. So when Alex Haigh at Hype For Type approached me about designing a new typeface for their Exclusive Faces Vol. 3, I had mixed feelings about taking it on but reasoned, if I could come up with something worthwhile then I should really throw my hat into the ring.

The result was Killer.  So named because it was a word that I found to set particularly nicely when playing with the final font. Check out the full size of the above image, I think it looks great at large sizes.

By and large (excusing the odd dalliance with Cooper Black or something silly) I like timeless, simple typefaces. The kind that were created by skilled type designers who’ve spent many years in darkened rooms, honing their skills and squinting at bezier curves… For the custom typefaces I create,  I usually only draw the letters that I need for the headline and in turn, they’re usually for very specific things. So with this, I wanted to create something noticeably new but that was still usable at the same time with a variety of potential applications.

I always work pretty organically and this project was no exception. After some time playing with my Lovechild grid (my most complete font so far, but still unavailable – for shame) I realised I could make interesting things happen by shifting and doubling the main circles that make it up. Pulling them together I created an overlap that mimics a calligrapher’s pen strokes and also gave the characters an apparent depth. For fun I added on some decorative central serifs – so rare to see these days. Above is a simplified grid. I sent a few letters across to Alex and he was digging it.

I re-drew the basics of the grid and typeface twice from scratch in the early stages and what I ended up with was a playbill-cum-fairground font. After cleaning up the overlaps, realised it could also be stencilled. This, accompanied by the way the grid is based almost solely around circles, gives it a modern yet almost blackletter feel. The grid began to create it’s own problems though as the nature of it, and the rules I set myself within it, meant that there are effectively two baselines and x-heights (as you can see in the close up below) so I had to accommodate the way that the overlaps dip and ascenders rise.

Once I’d got up a good head of steam, the grid turned out to be more versatile than I expected and I created two or three versions of each letter to help the user set more interesting headlines easily. Being the completist that I am, I created a full complement of numerals, European characters, punctuation and suchlike as well as a couple of ligatures.

My personal favourite characters are the letters ‘a’ and ‘k’ – shown here with their variants. They’re the ones where the ‘twist’ is most visible in the letters and were the ones I created early on that influenced the rest of the characters.

Having lived with Killer and played with it for a few weeks now, I can testify that it’s certainly a lot of fun and gives you good results pretty quickly. The multiple letter combinations mean it has a lot of longevity too and letters can be combined easily enabling you to create some really interesting typographic compositions. I’m looking forward to seeing where the design community takes it as it’s really got a lot of personality and can see it making an excellent addition to someone’s headline font arsenal. Owing to the fact that it references so many time periods, I’d like to think it has a certain timelessness. I’m not sure it’s what you’d call a design classic, but who knows.

Killer is now available from the Hype For Type foundry at

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