005- ‘IF ONLY WE COULD PULL OUT OUR BRAIN AND USE ONLY OUR EYES.’ – PABLO PICASSO
Helvetica, the timeless beauty.
It has been 56 years since the Neue Haas Grotesk typeface was developed, later adapted to be known as the famous and classic Helvetica. 56 years since the birth of this Swiss sensation that has become omnipresent in the world that we live in today. Helvetica feels contemporary, minimal and undeniably modern. This has been reiterated by giants in the design industry, big brands, international governments, ubiquitous sign posts and typographical nerds alike. Helvetica loyalists will describe this typeface in the most poetic fashion. It is minimal yet practical, timeless and graceful, neutral yet not lacking subtle warmth. Its usage has become such a ubiquity that often we miss it entirely, blurred to the background of our peripheral vision. And yet, Helvetica is used and admired for this very facet- it communicates unobtrusively and is neutral. Its aesthetic appeal lies in its simple sophistication, clean lines and attention to detail. Take the ‘a’ or ‘R’ for example; the monotone weights of the strokes are beautifully balanced by the delicate curves of the letters.
Initially developed by Max Miedinger and Edouard Hoffmann, Neue Haas Grotesk was altered and Helvetica replaced the original name for the Linotype version. The later developed Helvetica Neue is identical but crisper in many ways. Designers can happily use one of fifty and odd different styles available in the Helvetica and Helvetica Neue family. Helvetica is a combination of old world romance and future form. Some call it the thing of the past, yet it is here to stay. Despite its 56 years, this cult typeface is completely of the here and now.
Helvetica, a documentary film (2007) by Gary Hustwit captures beautifully the pervasiveness of this typeface that surrounds us. Watch a few clips from the movie here: