From billboards to taxi cabs to subway stations and store windows Helvetica is everywhere. Most people use this font because it is just there like how a lot of people go to McDonalds because its just there you don’t have to think about it. After watching this documentary, I have learned just what makes Helvetica so special and powerful.
Maximo Vismil says it is the space between the letters that makes the type good. Although to a person’s eye type looks black and white; in reality type is mostly white and a little black. The reason why Helvetica is so popular and successful is because it is very modern, clear, and works for just about everything. Helvetica was created in 1957 when a need for a rational and international typeface was desperate. The world was becoming more modern and there needed to be a typeface to express the changes and advancements going on. Helvetica was more machines and doing away with the manual work of creating a typeface. It was a symbol of the new modern world. Eduard Hoffman, the mastermind behind Helvetica, suggested that his German printing press should make a modernized form of Akidenz Grotesk. Akidenz Grotesk had serifs and san serifs and Hoffman wanted a typeface without them. Helvetica is all about the figure ground relationship. The shapes within the shapes match perfectly and create a powerful letter. Where is Helvetica now? A company named Linotype now has ownership of the typeface. Linotype owned the Haas and Stempel companies, which created Helvetica.
Helvetica cleaned up the advertising world. Instead of all the extra stuff being added in the 50’s advertisements like exclamation marks and cursive font for example, it transformed into bold statements with Helvetica like “Drink Coke Now” period. Another big client of Helvetica are governments and incorporations. They love using Helvetica because it seems neutral. Also, the smoothness of the letters make them seem human and can come off as seeming more accessible.
Helvetica invites a certain form of interpretation. It can match any brand it is representing. By using a certain typeface, a product or company can reach a different audience. For example, if a sign says “buy these jeans” in a grunge font, you would think the jeans would be ripped or grungy. If something were typed in Helvetica, you would think it is a simple product that could relate to most people.
Helvetica is a club, and by using it you’re saying, “we are a part of modern society”.
David Carson made many people in the typography world upset. When they were all trying to put things in order and make a system he continued to experiment and make crazy typography. He believes that the type font you use should represent the word. He thinks that Helvetica is simple clean and boring rather than simple clean and powerful. Grunge typography took the world by storm for about four to five years but by the end of the grunge period type fonts were broken because of how much they were manipulated. When creating a strong powerful typeface I have learned that the more restrictions and rules the better. Many people have tried to improve Helvetica but are never successful.