Design Case Study on a Helvetica Type Poster

In The Beginning

The first step in the process was to choose my favorite font. There was no other instruction or guidance. It seemed rather simple. I knew, without a doubt, that my choice would be Helvetica. Helvetica is professional and presentable, while also flexible enough to be used pretty much anywhere. I began the creative process without knowing the end goal: to create a tabloid size poster in InDesign based around that font. There were a few stipulations: I could only use black in white and there could be no graphics on the page, only text.

The Long Haul

I started with two sentences: one about why I liked the typeface and the other explaining why it was an objectively good typeface.

  1. My favorite Font is Helvetica because I like its simple design and how clean it looks on the page.
  2. Helvetica’s sans serif and thin design allows it to pair well and it also has plenty of predetermined weights so that it is applicable to any situation.

Then, I used “cubing” brainstorming to help think about my typeface. I found what described it, what it was similar to, what it was different from, what I associated it with, how I would analyze it, how I would apply it, and the positives and negatives of the font.

I used the words brainstormed to create the next piece: a 412 word piece describing the font. I thought it best to address some of the negatives of Helvetica, and the arguments against it, as well as the positives of Helvetica to make it a well rounded work.

My favorite typeface is Helvetica, also known as Neue Haas Grotesk because it was made by a Swedish typeface designer in the 1950s. It’s easy to read on a screen because of its sans serif and thin design, perfect those who crave order and flexibility in their writing.
If you’re looking for professional and presentable, look no farther than Helvetica. You can use it in numerous formats including websites, business cards, emails, flyers, newsletters, and magazines. It is the perfect body font for online publications as well. It doesn’t seem cluttered and naturally has a high x height that helps the letters to flow and allows it to be easily read even when using very small print. Small font size is important when used as captions for graphics in both online and print media. This is where you will often see Helvetica or Helvetica inspired fonts. Helvetica’s small overhang also helps with this, which is most noticeable in the letters f and t. The letters are able to be closer together and take up less space. In any professional setting, it fits right in. However, it doesn’t look too professional to the point where you cannot use it in casual projects.
People tend to gravitate towards decorative fonts for casual projects and works that will not be shown to clients because they make a larger statement or “look cute” but a large statement isn’t always good. It’s distracting and ugly and quite useless if you’re going to be making anything of value. Have you ever received an email in a cursive script font and thought: Wow this person is so professional? You haven’t? That’s because it has never happened. Keep it simple and concise and your coworkers, clients, friends, and eyes will thank you. I’m looking at you, Linda from the front desk.
Some may call Helvetica a basic font, but being basic doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The reason this font is widely used is because it is so flexible. On this iMac alone Helvetica is available in Light, Light Oblique, Regular, Oblique, Bold, and Bold Oblique. Helvetica could be used for a heading, subheading, or body of a work. A decorative font has to fit one mood but Helvetica can change based on weight, color, and other design factors.
There is no need to be overly decorative and make ugly things. Make work simple and chic by using Helvetica: the perfect font for any occasion.

I then took this long form essay and condensed it to 90 words:

If you’re looking for professional and presentable, look no farther than Helvetica. You can use it in numerous formats including websites, business cards, emails, flyers, newsletters, and magazines. Some may call Helvetica a basic font, but being basic doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The reason this font is widely used is because it is so flexible. Helvetica could be used for a heading, subheading, or body of a work. It has numerous weights already built into Microsoft Word and Adobe which allow designers to create the perfect page.

Within this short paragraph I focused on the words which best described the font: professional and presentable and flexible. From here, I created a brainstorming tree focusing on flexible:

I added in the images afterwards, trying to see if any would be useful to my piece. They didn’t end up helping me because I decided I would rather emphasize professional and presentable rather than flexible, but it was good to explore this idea.

From all of my brainstorming and research around those two words, I created prototype images:

A design focusing on a glyph.
A design focusing on the 90-word paragraph.

I was pretty happy with these designs and they were pretty different in terms of design principles used. My glyph focused design focuses on alignment and space, while my paragraph based design focuses on contrast and proximity.

I received both peer and professor review. Both appreciated my glyph focused poster more than my paragraph based poster, so that finalized my decision to focus on that piece. They mainly focused on a widow and that my type having hyphens within the paragraph was distracting.

I used their suggestions to perfect my design and create it’s final form:

My final design.

In The End

I learned a lot about different ways to brainstorm and how the creative process can take you down different roads. I know that if I would have immediately jumped into creating a poster it would have looked a lot different than my current final design.

I learned a lesson the hard way about saving all versions of your end design separately, sometimes you get rid of a component and then save and start tweaking then realize you want it back and it takes a lot of time to remake your original.

Overall I would say this project was a success. I feel my end design got across the points I wanted without being too over the top or involved, exactly how Helvetica is intended.

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