This week in Typography Life Drawing we’re looking at sans serif letterforms. These apparently simple and minimal shapes, in fact have complex backstories and they reflect huge changes both in society and cultural attitudes. Here are some extras about Helvetica that didn’t make it into the episode.
Helvetica has become ubiquitous, look around and it won’t be long before you read something set in Helvetica; it appears on the New York Subway, on tax forms and has been embraced by technology companies. Graphic designers love it, so the typeface has been a design industry default for many years. Much of its enduring appeal is not just in the perceived neutrality of its form, or in its extensive font family, but with the history and the associations that it has absorbed along the way that have made it one of the most famous typefaces of all time.
Helvetica was designed to appear neutral — to have no intrinsic associations of its own so that words could speak for themselves without any added meaning from the style of the typeface.
1. Is Helvetica is still seen as the serious and instructional typeface it was designed to be?
Helvetica was designed for practical scenarios like signage, according to Helvetica the documentary by Gary Hustwit. In Sarah’s online survey over 70% of participants said they would take a danger sign set in Helvetica more seriously than in a selection of other typefaces.