CalArts: Intro. to Typography-W2: 2.6 Helvetica-International Modern

After the Second World War in the 1950s
European graphic designers, especially Swiss designers, associated with the Basel School of Design
continued to build on the ideas of early modernist designers like Moholy-Nagy and Chicolt.

This new School of Designers has called their approach Neue Grafik น้อยเย่อ กราฟีก, new graphic design.

And they publicized their ideas in this journal of the same name.

The design of the journal showcased their approach.

It tried to presents it’s content in as clear, objective, and neutral a way as possible without ornament or aesthetic flourishes.

And using visual principles of hierarchy and spatial organization to make sense of its content.

Sans serif type was a big part of the clean, aesthetic language of Neue Grafik.

But the sans serif type faces around at the time were pretty crude. หยาบ ธรรมชาติ, ยังไม่ได้แต่

They had come out of that period of wild typographic experimentation in the late 19th century. 
And they hadn’t developed much since then.

The sans serif typeface favored by the Swiss school designers.

The one got closest to the clean look that they were after was Akzidenz-Grotesk แอคซิเดนซ์ โกรเทสก์, a German typeface from the 1890s.

Sans serif typefaces like Akzidenz are called Grotesk san serifs.

Grotesque sans serif have letters shaped and proportioned really similarly to modern serifs.

This is Bodani at the top for reference. 
They have a large x-height and a fairly unmodulated stroke.

Early grotesques like Akzidenz are often a little bit crude and uneven looking in their details.

They’re what designers like to call quirky ซึ่งแปลกๆ.

So by the end of the 50s the market was ripe for a new cleaner sans serif typeface. 
That would work with the increasingly popular Swiss style of graphic design.

And in 1957 that typeface arrived in the form of Helvetica.

Helvetica is a neo-grotesk or rationalist sans serif.

It’s pretty similar to Akzidenz, but its forms are cleaner and more mechanical-looking.

In the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, the ideas of the Swiss School of Graphic Design became the guiding principles of corporate graphic design around the world.
And Helvetica became the ultimate embodiment of this movement.

Today, Helvetica still dominates the corporate typographic landscape. It’s literally all around us.

It’s also become a default typeface for signage,

and in the digital ages a default in many of the user interfaces we spend so much time staring at.

Because of it’s close connection to the Swiss style of modernist graphic design,

Helvetica is also a rather divisive typeface.

In 2007, the documentary filmmaker Gary Hustwit set out to make a film about Helvetica
and found himself at the center of a debate amongst designers.

On the one hand, 
Helvetica has been embraced by modernist designers as the most perfect expression of the kind of neutral, objective design that they advocate.

And on the other hand, 
it has been reviled by postmodernist graphic designers as embodying แสดงออกให้เห็นเป็นรูปธรรม a kind of brain-numbing ซึ่งทำให้ไร้ความรู้สึก, ซึ่งทำให้ชินชา, glossy ดูเหมือนว่าถูกต้องแต่ความจริงไม่ใช่ , corporate sameness.

Whatever your opinion, it’s clear that Helvetica has become the ultimate default in typography.