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Category Sans-serif
Classifications Grotesque sans-serif
Designer(s) Max Miedinger, Eduard Hoffman
Foundry Haas Typefoundry
Date released 1957
Re-issuing foundries Mergenthaler Linotype Company
Design based on Akzidenz Grotesk
Variations Helvetica Neue
Swiss 721 BT

Helvetica is a widely used sans-serif typeface developed in 1957 by Swiss typeface designer Max Miedinger.


[edit] History

Helvetica was developed in 1957 by Max Miedinger with Eduard Hoffmann at the Haas'sche Schriftgiesserei (Haas type foundry) of Münchenstein, Switzerland. Haas set out to design a new sans-serif typeface that could compete with Akzidenz-Grotesk in the Swiss market. Originally called Die Neue Haas Grotesk, it was created based on Schelter-Grotesk. The aim of the new design was to create a neutral typeface that had great clarity, had no intrinsic meaning in its form, and could be used on a wide variety of signage.[1]

When Linotype adopted the Neue Haas Grotesk, which was never planned to be a full range of mechanical and hot-metal typefaces, its design was reworked. After the success of Univers, Arthur Ritzel of Stempel redesigned Neue Haas Grotesk into a larger family.[2]

In 1960, the typeface's name was changed by Haas' German parent company Stempel to Helvetica — derived from Confoederatio Helvetica, the Latin name for Switzerland — in order to make it more marketable internationally.

[edit] Variations of Helvetica

[edit] Digital versions

Linotype distributes various versions of the typeface, including those containing only fractions (numbers and percentages), characters for Central European languages, Cyrillic, Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic.

The Cyrillic version was designed in-house in the 1970s at D. Stempel AG, then critiqued and redesigned in 1992 under the advice of Jovica Veljovic.[3]

Helvetica Light was designed by Stempel's artistic director Erich Schultz-Anker, in conjunction with Arthur Ritzel.[4]

Matthew Carter designed the Helvetica Greek, Helvetica Compressed (including Helvetica Extra Compressed, Helvetica Ultra Compressed).[5]

[edit] Helvetica Textbook

Helvetica Textbook is an alternate design of the typeface. Some characters such as 1, 4, 6, 9, I, J, a, f, j, q, μ, and are drawn differently from the original version.

[edit] Helvetica Inserat

Helvetica Inserat is a version designed in 1957 primarily for use in the advertising industry. Sharing similar metric as Helvetica Black Condensed, the design gives the glyphs a more squared appearance, similar to Impact and Haettenschweiler. Strike with strokes in $, ¢ are replaced by non-strikethrough version. 4 is opened at top.

Cyrillic characters were added in 1970s at D. Stempel AG, then critiqued and redesigned in 1992 under the advice of Jovica Veljovic.

[edit] Helvetica Compressed

Designed by Matthew Carter, they are narrow variants that are tighter than the Helvetica Condensed. It shares some design elements with Helvetica Inserat, but using curved tail in Q, downward pointing branch in r, tilde bottom £,

[edit] Helvetica Rounded (1978)

Helvetica Rounded is a version containing rounded stroke terminators. Only bold, bold oblique, black, black oblique, bold condensed, bold condensed, bold outline fonts were made, with outline font not issued in digital form by Linotype.

[edit] Helvetica Narrow

Helvetica Narrow is a version where its width is between Helvetica Compressed and Helvetica Condensed. However, the width is scaled in a way what is optically consistent with the widest width fonts.

The font was developed when printer ROM space was very scarce, so it was created by mathematically squashing Helvetica by 18% (to 82% of the original width), resulting in distorted letterforms and thin vertical strokes next to thicker horizontals.[6]

OpenType version was not produced by Adobe under the distortion reasoning, and recommended Helvetica Condensed instead. However, in Linotype's OpenType version of Helvetica Narrow, the distortions found in the Adobe fonts are non-existent.

[edit] Neue Helvetica (1983)

Neue Helvetica is a reworking of the typeface with a more structurally unified set of heights and widths. It was developed at D. Stempel AG, Linotype's daughter company. The studio manager was Wolfgang Schimpf, and his assistant was Reinhard Haus; the manager of the project was René Kerfante. Erik Spiekermann was the design consultant and designed the literature for the launch in 1983.[7]

Other redesigns include improved legibility, heavier punctuation marks, increased spacing in numbers.

Neue Helvetica uses a numerical design classification scheme, like Univers. Neue Helvetica also comes in Outline, but not Textbook or Rounded fonts. The font family includes 51 fonts, which includes fonts in 9 weights in 3 widths (8, 9, 8 in normal, condensed, extended widths respectively), and an outline font based on Helvetica 75 Bold Outline. Linotype distribute Neue Helvetica on CD.[8] Neue Helvetica, too, comes in variants for Central European and Cyrillic text.

[edit] Helvetica World

Also called Helvetica Linotype,[9] Helvetica World supports Arabic, Cyrillic, Greek, Hebrew, and Vietnamese scripts.

The family consists of 4 fonts in 2 weights and 1 width, with complementary italics.

The Arabic glyphs were based on a redesigned Yakout font family from Linotype. Latin kerning and spacing were redesigned to have consistent spacing.[10]

John Hudson of Tiro Typeworks designed the Hebrew glyphs for the font family,[11] as well as the Cyrillic, and Greek letters.[12]

[edit] Similar typefaces

Comparison of distinguishing characters in Akzidenz-Grotesk, Folio, Helvetica, and Univers 55.

Generic versions of Helvetica have been made by various vendors, including Monotype Imaging (CG Triumvirate), ParaType (Pragmatica), Bitstream (Swiss 721).

Monotype's Arial, designed in 1982, while different from Helvetica in some few details, has identical character widths, and is indistinguishable by most non-specialists. The capital letters C, G, and R, as well as the lowercase letters a, e, r, and t, are useful for quickly distinguishing Arial and Helvetica.[13] Differences include:

  • Helvetica's strokes are typically cut either horizontally or vertically. This is especially visible in the t, r, and C. Arial employs slanted stroke cuts.
  • Helvetica's G has a well-defined spur; Arial does not.
  • The tails of the R glyphs and the a glyphs are different.

Nimbus Sans, another similar font family that incorporates fonts designed in 1940 (Nimbus Sans bold condensed, Nimbus Sans bold condensed (D)) and 1946 (Nimbus Sans Black Condensed, Nimbus Sans Black Condensed (D)), is produced by URW. Nimbus Sans L fonts were released under the GNU General Public License.

"Helv", later known as "MS Sans Serif", is a sans-serif typeface that shares many key characteristics to Helvetica, including the horizontally and vertically-aligned stroke terminators and more uniformed stroke widths within a glyph.

[edit] Usage

Helvetica on the New York City Subway
The typeface used on the Space Shuttle is Helvetica

Helvetica is among the most widely used sans-serif typefaces. Versions exist for the following alphabets/scripts: Latin, Cyrillic, Hebrew, Greek, Japanese, Korean, Hindi, Urdu, Khmer and Vietnamese. Chinese faces have been developed to complement Helvetica.

Helvetica is a popular choice for commercial wordmarks, including those for 3M, American Airlines, AT&T, BMW, Jeep, Lufthansa, Microsoft, and Orange [14].

Helvetica is widely used by the U.S. government; for example, federal income tax forms are set in Helvetica, and NASA uses the type on the Space Shuttle orbiter.[1] Helvetica is also used in the United States television rating system. New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority uses Helvetica for many of its subway signs. Helvetica, though, was not adopted as the official font for signage until 1989. The standard font from 1970 until 1989 was Medium Standard, an Akzidenz Grotesk-like sans-serif, as defined by Unimark's New York City Transit Authority Graphic Standards Manual. The MTA system is still rife with a proliferation of Helvetica-like fonts, including Arial.[15] The Chicago Transit Authority uses Helvetica on its signage for the Chicago 'L'. British Rail, the former state owned operator of the British railway system developed its own Helvetica-based Rail Alphabet font, which was also adopted by the National Health Service and the British Airports Authority.

Helvetica is used on signage on the Chicago 'L'

Canada's federal government uses Helvetica as its identifying typeface, with three variants being used in its corporate identity program, and encourages its use in all federal agencies and websites.[16]

The logo and graphic identity of the "Metro" (Underground) in Madrid are Helvetica Regular and Helvetica Neue.

[edit] Media coverage

In 2007, Linotype GmbH held the Helvetica NOW Poster Contest to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the typeface.[17][18] Winners were announced in January 2008 issue of the LinoLetter.

In 2007, director Gary Hustwit released a documentary, Helvetica, to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the typeface. In the film, graphic designer Wim Crouwel said, "Helvetica was a real step from the 19th century typeface... We were impressed by that because it was more neutral, and neutralism was a word that we loved. It should be neutral. It shouldn't have a meaning in itself. The meaning is in the content of the text and not in the typeface."

From April 2007 to March 2008, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City displayed an exhibit called "50 Years of Helvetica",[19] which celebrated the many uses of the font.

[edit] Awards

Helvetica was rated number one on FontShop Germany's list "Best Fonts of All Time".[20]

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ a b (2007-09-12). Helvetica [Documentary].
  2. ^ myfonts: Arthur Ritzel
  3. ^ Adobe Fonts: Helvetica Cyrillic
  4. ^ Cees W. de Jong, Alston W. Purvis, Friedrich Friedl. Creative Type: A Sourcebook of Classic and Contemporary Letterforms. Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0500512299/ISBN-13 978-0500512296
  5. ^ magazine TYPO.18 December 2005 issue
  6. ^ Type 1 ("PostScript") to OpenType font conversion
  7. ^ "Who Made Helvetica Neue?", typophile.com
  8. ^ Linotype Library presents entire New Helvetica family on a single CD — June 21, 2001: Font classic Helvetica now available in all 51 weights
  9. ^ The Language Whiz — Helvetica Linotype
  10. ^ Linotype Releases 1100+ OpenType Fonts: Release a Significant Step Towards Format's Acceptance
  11. ^ Experimental Arabic Type
  12. ^ Macmillan, Neil. An A–Z of Type Designers. Yale University Press: 2006. ISBN 0-300-11151-7.
  13. ^ How to Spot Arial at Mark Simonson Studio
  14. ^ "BBC News - Helvetica at 50". http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/6638423.stm. Retrieved on 2009-02-20. 
  15. ^ "The (Mostly) True Story of Helvetica and the New York City Subway.". AIGA. http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/the-mostly-true-story-of-helvetica-and-the-new-york-city-subway?pp=1/. 
  16. ^ "FIP Information Design". Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/clf-nsi/fip-pcim/id4_e.asp. 
  17. ^ Linotype Announces Helvetica NOW Poster Contest
  18. ^ Helvetica NOW Poster Contest
  19. ^ "Exhibitions 2007: 50 Years of Helvetica". Museum of Modern Art, New York. http://www.moma.org/exhibitions/exhibitions.php?id=4506. Retrieved on 2008-11-16. 
  20. ^ To Helvetica and Back

[edit] References

  • Lawrence W Wallis. Modern Encyclopedia of Typefaces 1960-90. Lund Humphries Publishers Ltd: 2000. ISBN 0 85331 597 1.

[edit] External links

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