Typography is mainly assumed of by designers, but there are some typefaces so well-liked that they enter the much larger cultural zeitgeist. Helvetica is one particular of people typefaces. Created in 1957, it has become ubiquitous and can be located everywhere from labels on grocery store cabinets to transportation to the brand of American Clothing.
Helvetica was not the initially title for this now-iconic typeface. It was initally dubbed Neue Haas Groteskbut but was renamed in 1960 to make it a lot easier to market place abroad right after becoming common in Switzerland. The name is meant to be dull and neutral and, certainly, Helvetica has been referred to as “the little black dress” of typefaces. Positive, it may possibly not be the most remarkable point in a closet (or type collection), but it is flexible and can be worn at all varieties of situations.
Interested to learn more about this typeface? Scroll down to understand the traits of Helvetica, its historical growth, and why it remains so well-liked currently.
What does Helvetica look like?
Right before delving into the details of Helvetica, it is required to get some simple terminology out of the way. A person widespread flub that individuals make when conversing about typography is that they use “font” and “typeface” as interchangeable terms. This is not accurate. A typeface refers to a variety style and design and all of its variations. Helvetica is a typeface. Fonts, on the other hand, refer to people specific versions. Helvetica Daring 12pt is an instance of a font. A different way to bear in mind the distinction is that a typeface is like an album and a font is like a song on that album.
With those terms in thoughts, let’s talk about the features of Helvetica. Helvetica is a Neo-Grotesque style typeface. Neo-Grotesque is a group of san-serif (typefaces with no “feet” or “hats”) that began in the 1950s with the emergence of the Global Typographic Fashion (also acknowledged as Swiss Design) that was made with an emphasis on simplicity—something that Helvetica embodies.
Properties of Helvetica
In this article are the essential characteristics of Helvetica:
- The typeface has a large x-peak, which refers to the height of its lowercase x.
- The cash letters have a broad width as well as a uniform a single. You’ll notice that the letterform does not taper through the character—it is all the similar.
- The S is a sq. condition.
- Helvetica capabilities restricted apertures—the house between an open up counter (together with letters c, f, h, and so on.) and the outside of the letter—make it demanding to read through at little sizes.
- There is limited spacing involving the letters for a dense appearance.
Helvetica was not pulled out of slim air it was impressed by an 1896 typeface termed Akzidenz-Grotesk. It was conceived by Eduard Hoffmann and formulated by Max Miedinger with input from Hoffmann at the Haas Form Foundry.
As the two worked on Helvetica, there was a person term by which the typeface was judged: “Hamburgers.” Hoffmann knew that the term contained a complete array of characters that would support them evaluate the typeface’s top quality. If “Hamburgers” was easy to examine, Helvetica would obtain its target.
Why is Helvetica all over the place?
Helvetica has remained elegant and related in the course of the decades, and it won’t be falling out of favor anytime soon. But although in vogue, it is really also invisible. It is not way too distinctive, and that is the position. Helvetica is quick to browse without having calling awareness to by itself, which is why it has been made use of in sites like the New York Town subway method for so long.
Ellen Lupton, curator of present-day style at the Cooper-Hewitt, delivers insight into its rise and longevity. “It furnished a thing that designers wished: a typeface apparently devoid of character,” she explains. “In contrast, other preferred sans serif typefaces that existed at the time, this sort of as Gill Sans and Futura, have stronger voices and far more distinct geometries. Helvetica met our craving for company vanilla.”
If this sounds like a disparagement of Helvetica, you can glance at it from the standpoint that layout is not the similar as artwork. Style and design solves a trouble. And in eventualities wherever a typeface is needed to speedily and easily express information—while also supplying selection (in font decisions)—then it need to be celebrated as a success.
To appreciate Helvetica’s indelible mark on our culture, check out the documentary Helvetica by Gary Hustwit. It was launched in 2007 to coincide with typeface’s 50th anniversary and delves into several of the topics talked about here.