Sarah hyndman on 60 years of this iconic typeface, understanding it in context of social history, and what her research tells us about its personality.
Typefaces/fonts reflect the defining spirit of a period in time. They are shaped by the ideas and aspirations of the era, and as a result they document cultural change. One of the most high profile examples of this is the now 60-year-old Helvetica; a typeface designed to be neutral and devoid of a personality. Instead it became the figurehead for the dramatic social shifts beginning in the post-war 1950s; a time of breaking with the traditions of the past as people looked to a new future.
Life in the 1950s was ruled by social conventions: marriage; men had a career to support their family; women stayed at home to look after the family; Sunday was still essentially Victorian in character; suits or corsets were everyday attire; in Britain received pronunciation, or ‘BBC English’, ruled the airwaves. The advent of the teenager was accompanied by the new rock ‘n’ roll music, which older generations thought would lead to juvenile delinquency.
In the US this was a time of economic growth after the end of World War II, along with the boom in the number of babies being born as people looked to the future with a new optimism for peace and prosperity. The civil rights movement was gaining momentum and demanding change. In Britain, despite food still being rationed, post-war austerity and high taxes, there was an excitement about the future and the 1951 Festival of Britain was a celebration of the nation’s innovations.
Pop Up Type Tasting Typography Lab
Stoke Newington Literary Festival
2nd & 3rd June, 11am to 8pm, free.
Venue – Locations around the Town Hall
What does a font taste or smell like? Do letterforms convey mood? Can a typeface enhance your experiences? Author Sarah Hyndman invites you to take part in typographic experiments as part of her current research. The mobile laboratory will pop up at various festival locations throughout the weekend. Get location updates on Twitter at #TypeTastingLab.
“If you see a “danger” sign written in the Comic Sans typeface, would you pay attention to the warning? What does Times New Roman taste like? Is a lemon fast or slow?” Paul Bignell for i Newspaper.
“These questions probably haven’t crossed your mind – indeed, they may make no sense at all. But in the studio of typographic artist Sarah Hyndman, they are vital. Here, art prints mingle with old bottles plastered with labels that say “Eat Me” in an elaborate font. It’s a cross between a science lab, a trendy artists’ hub and an old curiosity shoppe. There are Helvetica water biscuits in jars (I’m told not to eat them as they are well past their sell-by date), 1950s Coca-Cola bottles in a display case and a rack of test tubes with a strange-looking pink liquid at the bottom.”
“Stealth health – it’s all in the font Hyndman understands that you couldn’t convince chocolate manufacturers to change how they work. However, through the power of fonts, she believes there is scope for approaching the healthier end of the food market by stealth, by giving these companies the same tools as those that sell unhealthy products.”
Read the extended online i Newspaper article here…
Typographic Time Machine #TimeType
Take part in the Typographic Time Machine project anywhere in the world, you don’t need to be in London to participate.
Typefaces are like Instagram filters for letters
A typeface captures the spirit of when it was designed and is a permanent record of that moment in time. In this way typefaces document social history and chart developments in technology. Type can transport you to an imagined nostalgia that you may not have experienced first-hand, but which has become real to you through the experience of film and television.
How to take part:
1. Download one of the letter templates and print it out at 21cm x 21cm (to fit the width of an A4 page). Download a pdf here, or click on one of the letters below for a larger version.
2. Use pens, pencils, paint, ink, collage materials and customise your letter to represent a moment in time—past present or future.
3. Take a photograph of your customised letter and share it on Instagram or Twitter with #TimeType, or tag @TypeTasting on Facebook.
We will be adding the finished letters to the online gallery before and during the event at the V&A for the London Design Festival on Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th September.
Here is a selection of letters for you to use. Scroll down to the one of the letters below, click to enlarge an outlined version your chosen letterform and print out at the width of an A4 page (the outline may be faint to see it on screen, but it should print out fine).
Do you work with designers/commission design? Or are you a designer looking to develop professionally? Could you spare a few minutes to take part in a quick survey that will help the development of future Type Tasting workshops?
Click here to take the survey.
This is a survey that was created a few weeks ago to coincide with the 4th of July. However, current events that continue to unfold here in the UK mean that it is too soon to look for parallels, or to write a witty analysis. Instead this post is to be a celebration of our shared language of type—whatever our beliefs, wherever we live. Typography is a shared language that gives us the freedom to communicate more effectively with the whole World. In London we are linking arms with our neighbours and friends in celebration of our beautifully diverse and dynamic communities. This would not be the wonderful and crazy city it is without the differences that inspire us and we learn so much from. No matter what happens in politics, we will always be both European and citizens of the World, so let’s embrace and celebrate what we have in common as a global family and keep communicating with each other.