Love it or hate it… Helvetica is a force to be reckoned with.

16 07 2008

Designers are constantly faced with the issue of choosing the right typeface for logo design. Basically, a font should support the brand in three principal ways:

1.) enhance the overall visual appearance of the composition

2.) create a compatibility with the other design elements

3.) legibly communicate the name/message

However, these days there are just too many fonts out there to pick from and the process of finding the right fit can become quite cumbersome. So which typefaces are safe? My choice is always the clean sans-serif classic Helvetica. So here is a brief, and I mean brief, history on Helvetica:

Helvetica was created by Max Miedinger (with Eduard Hoffmann) at the Haas type foundary in Münchenstein, Switzerland in the late 1950’s. Originally called Neue Haas Grotesk, it was renamed Helvetica in 1960 from “Confoederatio Helvetica” which is the Latin name for Switzerland. The new moniker was issued to make it more internationally marketable. I think it worked.

Typography since the 1960’s has been completely saturated with the crisp clean lines of Helvetica. Today it is still one of the most commonly used fonts in the world. Look around. Street signs, billboards, storefronts, tax forms, mail boxes, subways and logos everywhere are using Helvetica because of its pure neutrality and subsequently its omnipresence in our global culture.

Of course this extreme infusion into all things type has caused a backlash or two over the last half century. Designers either love it or hate, but no one can argue that Helvetica is not a dominating presence in our world.

For all you type nerds out there that want to watch an interesting documentary on this subject, there is a wonderful movie that I had the pleasure to view a couple months ago called simply Helvetica. It is a feature-length independent film by Gary Hustwit that reveals Helvetica’s transcendent impact on society that goes beyond nation or language as the classic typeface celebrates 50 years. –hd


Holly Davis