K is for King, Q is for Queen

Hat-trick design’s Jim Sutherland has created a typographic chess set based on characters from the Hoefler & Frere-Jones face Champion

Hat-trick design‘s Jim Sutherland has created a typographic chess set based on characters from the Hoefler & Frere-Jones face Champion



A edition of 50 sets has been produced, using laser-cut acrylic for the pieces. The King, represented by a capital K, of course, is 50mm tall, the pawns 30mm. While Champion lends itself well to this new use, Sutherland says he had to make a couple of adjustments – the Q and P have been redrawn to make them more stable and the Kt ligature (for the Knight) has been redrawn.


The board itself is made from 2mm greyboard foiled in black. “It was a really tricky production in order to get the fine detail and the counters sharp, plus making sure everything stood up properly,” Sutherland says. “The hope is that we will go into a longer production run in the future.”


A sheet in the packaging includes information about moves and chess notation as well as a selection of chess-themed quotations. A set of postcards, also included in the pack, show how each piece moves.


During research for the project Sutherland started a tumblr site Graphic Chess, recording chess art and graphics, which includes Pentagram’s new identity for World Chess (below, more here)


The type(chess)set costs £275 and is available here



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  • David

    That KT looks so clunky, horrific even.. I know it’s easy to comment on things you would have changed in something, but sure an upper case K and Q and lower case for the others would have made more sense, even pandering to the hierarchy between the Royals and their staff/counsel.

    Just feels overly gimmicky and type for the sake of type here, for far less than £275 you could get one of these made with far more attention to detail… what IS the deal with the K from King (3rd image) having a slope in the top recess when the same K in both the KT and the K on the information sheet not having this slope? And again in the same image you can see the Q has one soft curved edge whilst the other has a random hard step in it.

    Clearly a bad cut line on the character as the same visible slope doesn’t feature in H&FJ typeface at all.

    Poorly crafted, very poorly crafted but hey, people will pay it, because it’s minimal, typographic, design so it MUST be good right, right?

    Rant over – I do urge people to look into this prior to purchasing it though as the workmanship looks bloody shoddy here and this looks more like a $60 product you’d buy as a present off firebox, not a premium cost pseudo-luxury product.

  • I really like it – great idea.

    (I think the K may actually have been accidentally placed on the board upside down and that’s why there’s a difference between the K of the Kt and the K.)

  • Glad to see the usual CR Blog trolls are at work today (David – no surname or link for obvious reasons). To my mind it’s a great idea and very well thought out. OK so it may only appeal to design types – but isn’t that the point. I’d buy it.

    Over to you David to top it – you seem to have plenty of time on your hands, so lets get your latest work on the CR Blog and see how it fairs. Good luck mate…

  • Had the privilege of a sneak preview of that project and ‘shoddy’ is the last word you would throw at it. ‘Obsessively crafted and beautifully presented’ are closer to the mark.

    The Raymond Chandler quote reads: “Chess is the most elaborate waste of human intelligence outside of an advertising agency.” A few CR readers might enjoy that one.

  • Christian Eves

    I have already ordered my set. What I love about it, besides the idea; is the fact it is born from a designer wanting to experiment and use his love of type and letterforms for something more experimental than the usual self-initiated poster or brochure.

    Surely this enthusiasm and willingness to step out of ones comfort zone should be praised rather the results criticised for not being professionally finished enough (which I am sure it is).

  • Nigel

    Great project – I want one!

    Bizarre comments from the first reader. He clearly needs to get out more.

    Lovely idea and beauitfully executed – bravo.

  • I don’t play chess but this makes me want to learn. It would have been easy to stop at the pieces and the board, however the enclosed postcards, additional (evident) research and overall attention to detail make it a great project.

  • The K is upside down David. Should have been spotted but oh well.

  • Rick Wagner

    Not sure why a Kt combination was used instead of the “N” for Knight as in standard chess notation. Think this would help.

  • Gazzer

    It’s upside down David, and you didn’t spot it.
    I agree. Kt should be N as it always is in Chess notation.

  • I bet this will be popular with people who don’t play chess.

  • I’m going to have to agree with David on this one — this set is really poorly designed and looks very amateurish. I understand that the “P” had to be reconfigured to be more stable, but the stem is so wide that it looks like some awful bitmapped font that’s been scaled way up (which also means that it doesn’t match the “B” or the “R”).

    Speaking of ugly, “KT”? Really??? I hadn’t even thought of David’s suggestion of using upper and lowercase letters, but even “N,” the notational version of the knight would be better than this “KT” crap; and that would look kind of hardcore and badass.

    I don’t have a problem with minimalism, but seriously, this set looks like someone forgot to do their typography homework and gave it to an intern at the last minute.

  • hoverbikes

    “Kt” was the standard descriptive notation for most of the twentieth century- a bit classier than the modern “N”, maybe.

    David’s pearl-clutching about the “horrific” Kt comes from not knowing the game. It’s a subtle touch that projects old-school chess literacy.

  • Michael Engel

    While I think this typographic chess set is a nice idea, it has some drawbacks. One of the largest IMHO is that it doesn’t work outside of English-speaking countries. Others (like the “overleaded” K leading to the use of “Kt” for knights) were already mentioned.

    If I was going to spend several $100 on a chess set, I would prefer the Bauhaus Chess Set (http://www.visualnews.com/2012/01/02/bauhauss-intuitive-chess-set/), designed by Josef Hartwig in 1923. I think it’s especially nice that the shape of the chess pieces is modeled according to their functionality (well, it’s Bauhaus after all, so what did you expect?). This might also fit better with the Mies von der Rohe’s “Barcelona” chairs shown in the second photo :-).

  • Russ

    “Kt” is indeed older notation, but if the older notation was intended, then it (“Kt”) should have been used, instead of “KT” (with a small uppercase T).

    But having the knight be 2 letters makes it stick out like a sore thumb and look like a special exceptional piece. “N” would have been far better, I think.

    It does seem like a chess set designed by someone who doesn’t play chess…

  • Jess

    David is right; this would neither be useful as a chess set nor appealing as an art object. If a professional photographer can’t make it look right, what hope do the rest of us have? While playing, one would have to place each piece precisely every time in order for the board to remain even minimally legible. The close scrutiny on the “K” makes it clear that Champion is not aesthetically pleasing at this size, either. How many different slopes is that? Oy.

  • I have a deep fascination with chess, not just simply the “game” of chess, but the aesthetics of it, from the checkerboard to the peices, so when I saw this I about fell over. What a cool project.