Helvetica metal

June 4, 2009


More evidence that workhorse sans serifs can transform even the humblest of thrash epics. This conceptual heavy metal graphic design project comes in the form of Metallica’s 1986 opus Master of Puppets processed in the title identity through the great leveler, Helvetica Franklin Gothic (see update below).

Noah Venezia, whose projects include the enigmatic Stupendous, has alchemically distilled the sleeve material of Master into a Swissly modernized poster. This approach isolates the text component of the album’s packaging, disorienting it in its degenrefication. It would be condescending to the original album to suggest this is an improvement; it’s apples to invisible oranges. (Master’s cover art was executed by the late Don Brautigam, whose Stephen King covers for Night Shift and The Stand, linger durably in my memory. Compared to what Ed RepkaDerek Riggs, and Joe Petagno produced the same year,  Master of Puppets is the quintessence of subtlety.)

The original vinyl Master of Puppets packaging (European issue), via Johan’s Metallica collection site

The original vinyl Master of Puppets packaging (European issue), via Johan’s Metallica collection site

Of the project Noah says, “Master of Puppets had a tremendous impact on me during my formative years. It was unlike anything I had heard and I became obsessed with it. People that I talk to either share a similar experience or it means nothing to them.

“My redesign of the liner notes was an attempt to glorify the album while also making it more acceptable to those unfamiliar. I wanted to compress it into a format that people did not question. I also wanted to make it more powerful simply by increasing its scale. It’s a sort of homage to the album.”

UPDATE: That is indeed Franklin Gothic. Though the main point adheres: it’s compelling to envision heavy metal through the conventions of modernism and clean type. And the pun in the hed is too good to ditch.

Noah says the poster will be on display at the new art + performance space Littlefield in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn on Friday, June 19.

Earlier: In lieu of a review: SUNN O)))’s Monoliths & DimensionsThe look of metal today



  1. Forwarding immediately to my guitar-playing, 14 year-old nephew, who thinks Myriad Pro is cooler than Helvetica, probably because he’s an Apple geek. This is where my guidance might be most useful.

  2. nice one dude! got this from @khoi

    might be cool to see the reverse, too – something iconically modern done up all heavy metal. like if someone took mies’ personal stationary or those classic pan am posters (don’t tell fred) and added some bad lightning bolts. or maybe not

    anyway, good post

  3. Yeah! Although as a 16yo I was more taken by the Metal Up Your Ass cover…

    It’s hard to tell about the rest of the poster from the pic shown, but the heading ‘Master of Puppets’ is not set in Helvetica. Looks like Franklin Gothic to me.

    (Here courtesy of @khoi too)

  4. Indeed Michael; I’m so far from a type expert but I thought I was looking at Helvetica. Anyone else care to cast their votes?

  5. […] “Master of Puppets” rendered in the Modernist style. [Via Khoi […]

  6. It sure looks like Helvetica to me.

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