Steven Heller’s Font of the Month: Chutz

I knew Chutz would be the first typeface to start off the new year when I saw the lower-case letter “n” in a test setting of Chutz Bold. It reminds me of two physical positions: One is of a short-distance runner with its vaulted back, legs ready to sprint and head down, waiting at the starting line for the referee to begin a race. The other is less heroic, albeit no less human; the position looks a lot like a person holding a scrub brush in hand, crouching on their knees, washing a floor. The same can be said for the lower case “m”, where the person has two arms placed on the floor. I am curiously drawn to letters that contain unexpected anthropomorphic characteristics.

Chutz font family in action. Designed by Michael Rafailyk.

This is an utterly subjective and decidedly unhelpful measure (for you the user) to evaluate and recommend a Font of the Month, but there are many subtle elements of a typeface (some that are purely aesthetic, others practical) that draws both typographer and reader into identifying with a font (like a thematic apperception test). There are no other surprises in Chutz that I can see, but there is one overall sensibility that Michcael Rafailyk notes: The alphabet is based on Hebrew letters and was originally designed as a proprietary face for a Kosher food company (Feisty Foods) in Brooklyn, New York. (Perhaps that is why I see the “n” as my grandmother, who was continually washing her floors). Using the type-tester, I recognized another subtle reference, that ignited my tastebuds, the word “SECOND” brings to mind the sign of the once-legendary, now gone SECOND AVENUE DELI in New York.

Whether a typeface triggers simple memories, like I have described, or not, Chutz is an enjoyable face to play with. The slanted nature implies motion. This is not a static face in any of its weights. The typeface has integrity beyond the initial starting point of faux-Hebrew pastiche. And there is an intoxicating relationship between the letters that feels like the best of Speedball and brush lettering.

Chutz font family in action. Designed by Michael Rafailyk.

I experimented with randomly mixing the two cases within the same word, with great pleasure. Take the word “EXOTiC” (with lowercase “i”) as an example: Each letter has individuality, while together they are harmonious, not dissonant – and in this case there is also a pleasant surprise: The cap “O” is not a circle or oval but a roughly drawn character that enhances the other more precisely rendered letters.

A final note: Some of the letters, including the lower case “i” have serifs, and others a swash-like tail; likewise, the upper case “T” has alternative serif and flourish bottoms. This is a family of charmed, unconventional characters, and after an hour of test-driving, the most impressive aspect of Chutz is its unpredictable wit — Chutz made me smile.

Font of the Month: Chutz
Designer: Michael Rafailyk Foundry: Michael Rafailyk

Steven Heller is nothing short of a legend in the design community. Award-winning graphic designer, author and editor of hundreds of books (yes, 100s!) and one of the world’s foremost authorities on graphic design history; and arguably its best design commentator. Follow Steven on the must-read The Daily Heller and read his latest book, Growing Up Underground: A Memoir of Counterculture New York.

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