Hacking Helvetica

Learn how the iconic Swiss typeface influenced generations of designers, visual hackers, and coders then team up with attendees to make the font your own and compete to have your version published.

Event Details


swissnex San Francisco
730 Montgomery St., San Francisco, 94111 United States


March 25, 2011 from 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm America/Los Angeles (UTC-08:00)

To celebrate the US launch of the Swiss start-up Fontself, swissnex San Francisco hosts an interactive event in which attendees compete to redesign one of the most emblematic symbols of Swiss design: Helvetica.

With Fontself, currently in residence at swissnex San Francisco, anyone can easily hand-draw letters and emoticons, upload them to the Internet, and instantly use their personalized fonts in social networks, blogs, chats, and emails.

After a brief introduction to the iconic Swiss typeface, teams get hacking by drawing a set of letters on top of Helvetica templates. The most original, custom version of Helvetica will be published online as an official Fonself font and available for free to hundreds of thousands of users on major social networks and services such as Facebook and Yahoo! Mail.

No experience necessary. Graphic designers and illustrators from the Academy of Art University are on hand as coaches to help you reshape, add on, change colors and textures, and hack Helvetica to your liking. Simply fontastic!


6:30 pm  doors open
7:00 pm  introduction & short presentations from Ryan Medeiros of Academy of Art University and Franz Hoffman, CEO of Fontself
8:00 pm  font competition begins
8:45 pm  reception and networking
9:30 pm  fonts exhibition and winner announcement
10:30 pm  doors close


Franz Hoffman, CEO of Fontself

Franz Hoffman is a graphic designer, 3D lover, and typography enthusiast. He is also a passionate entrepreneur. He co-founded Fontself in 2008 with Marc Escher, a software engineer he met eight years earlier as a co-worker. He has a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and new media from the Ecole cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ECAL).


Ryan Medeiros, Lead for Visual Design at Academy of Art University

Ryan Medeiros is a designer, artist, and full-time instructor at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. His design career began in 1995 at the famous San Francisco package design firm Primo Angeli Inc. Between 1998 and 2001, he owned and operated a three-person new media design studio in downtown San Francisco. Since 2006, he has been teaching in the Web Design & New Media Graduate department at the Academy of Art. He teaches visual design, new media software, typography, interactive infographics, and advises students in visual design for their final thesis projects. In 2008, his neo-constructivist poster, “100 Years of Futurism,” was exhibited at the Moscow Biennial of Graphic Design. Medeiros has a bachelor’s degree in Fine Art from the University of California, Santa Cruz. His design work and fine art have been exhibited in solo and group shows in San Francisco and abroad.


Photo: Myleen Hollero

Event Photos