sans serif

 Helvetica was developed in Switzerland at the Haas Type Foundry in 1957. The brainchild of Max Miedinger with Eduard Hoffman, Helvetica has featured in countless commercials, branded hundreds of companies and now starred in a major motion picture. But if you’d rather the story in infographic form:

For its fans, Helvetica is the perfect typographic expression of swiss style. It’s modern, clean and has an air of cool. Graphic designers celebrate its neutrality and chameleon-like ability to communicate everything from the luxury of Fendi, the efficiency of the Canadian government or the humour of The Office.

Why is Helvetica so malleable?

That is the question explored by Gary Hustwit in Helvetica. Is it really the best way to communicate words visually or have we just been conditioned to respond to it in a positive way because its so widely proliferated? Critics of Helvetica, like Erik Spiekermann, argue we have been and that, in reality, the font is boring and has none of the rhythm of human communication. They see the fragmented postmodernist movement in graphic design as a reaction to the barren design of modernism and Helvetica.

From the mid-80s right through to the early 2000s this fun, schizophrenic style dominated popular culture. It manifested in neon, handwriting, collage, grunge and a plethora of other visual design. As though the whole world was one big zine.

But then came this:

Apple’s 2001 iPod commercial perfectly captured the sleek simplicity of modernism whilst retaining the human exuberance of postmodernism. This was a watershed moment in communications, this was the switch.

Modern communicators must find a balance between utilitarian sparseness and mania.

0:27 – Helvetica



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