Helvetica, 1961

Today the typeface Helvetica is still ubiquitous despite being created over 50 years ago. The typeface can be seen in major brand identities and logos including American Apparel, American Airlines, North Face, Microsoft, Panasonic and Target. As well as in branding the type is still virtually everywhere. It can also be found on the New York subway systems and government forms. This shows the importance and influence Helvetica has had on the world of design.

Examples of Brands that use Helvetica

The type was created and developed by Edouard Hoffmann and Max Miedinger at the Haas Type Foundry. Helvetica was originally names Die Neue Haas Grotesk but due to the new Swiss style the type it then got given the name Helvetica in 1960, which comes from the Latin word ‘Helvetia’ translates to Switzerland. They did not want to name the font after a country itself so they thought ‘Helvetica’ would be better and more marketable. It was heavily marketed in the 1960s.

The popularity of Helvetica is due to many reasons.The font was designed to be clean and bold, but also to not have any meaning it. They wanted to make something that would fit well with the modern and industrial times that they were in, therefore it is was important that is was clear and fast to read in any situation, even if you were passing fast. Its neutral and colourless design means its safe which allows designers to use it as an easy display type. A typeface that has character already will influence the character of the of a design, but by using a neutral font, the character must be created from the designer or the product itself. Communication was the key in the design of Helvetica. It invites trust and reliability. Another reason that explains the popularity is that it was one of few typefaces that was used by the Swiss typographic style in that era, which to this day is still influential.

Although the design is very clean it still has some quirks. The inner white shapes of the letters appears to be the guide for the black surrounding them. The lowercase ‘a’ seems to have a heavier and tear dropped shape base than seen in other types.The perfect straight angle of the line going through the ‘Q’ makes the letter seem visually appealing. You can also see little details in the ‘R’ such as the little flick and the right of the letter where it kicks out. and the curve where the letter meets in the middle. It is little details like this that makes the font seem more attractive as a design.

However now that Helvetica has become so popular there are mixed opinions to whether it still has the same affect that it used to. Many people feel that using the font is a sign of conformity due to the large numbers of companies and uses of the typeface. I understand how some may think the font is overrated and would find it hard to be passionate about the typeface, however overall it is an effective design for what it was set out to be, and the success of Helvetica shows this.