Type Talks: Helvetica

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Designer: Max Miedinger and Edouard Hoffman

Style: Sans-serif, Grotesque

Date: 1957, redesigned in 1983

Background: In 1956, a swiss typographer named Max Miedinger was commissioned by Eduard Hoffmann, head of the Haas Typefoundry, to design a new sans-serif typeface, the Neue Haas Grotesk. Their aim was to create a neutral typeface that had great clarity, no intrinsic meaning in its form, and could be used widely on signage. After creating Neue Haas Grotesk, later renamed to Helvetica, the typeface quickly gained popularity and was licensed by Linotype.

26 years later, in 1983, Linotype felt the font was available for an upgrade based on inconsistencies. By making slight improvements in the overall readability and variety of weights and obliques, Linotype opened up the typeface to more designers. Find more about the improvements here. Soon after, Adobe and Apple licensed it guaranteeing widespread use. In 2006, Linotype was acquired by Monotype Imaging for $59.7 million which may now be more popularly known by www.fonts.com.

Typeface Talk: It’s not a mistake that this font has been dubbed, “One font to rule them all.” Helvetica is a bold and assertive font that doesn’t need much to complement it. Commonly, it’s found in logos of brands that are established enough to only be known by their names like American Apparel, Sears, Crate and Barrel, Jeep, and 3M.

Following the main goal of the font to be clear, neutral, and used on signage, Helvetica is seen daily by New Yorkers who use the subway system. To say the least, if you have eyes then you’ve seen Helvetica in more places than you realize.

This doesn’t mean that designers are lazy and can’t find another one of the gazillion fonts out there to use. It also doesn’t mean that company brands aren’t evolving with the times and trends. Perhaps the widespread and continual use of Helvetica in brands is a testament to the timelessness and versatility of the typeface.

Helvetica Feel:

  • Reliable
  • Direct
  • Everyday
  • Tidy

Helvetica Conveys:

  • What you see is what you get
  • Straight-laced
  • Timeless

Helvetica-based logos: