Announcing Hikari

Core0's picture

Before the Haas Type Foundry released Helvetica in 1957, constructivist sans serif fonts were classified as Grotesk, a term that reflected the dismissive notion of typesetters in previous times. It was Art Deco and the Bauhaus movement, along with modernist architecture, fresh ideas and stricter shapes in interior design, a style influenced by industrial and technological developments, that made Grotesk fonts more popular over time.

Ever since the introduction of Helvetica Neue, classicistic sans serif fonts have been domineered by this Swiss style. Over the last six decades, typesetters, designers and typographers remembered and used other constructivist sans serif styles, like Futura and Neuzeit. In the late 1980s, American classics like Trade Gothic and Franklin Gothic were used again in Advertising, so the American newspaper title style has been a second strong influence on sans serif fonts and Adrian Frutiger’s typeface for the Parisian airport, Frutiger, sparked a rennaissance of humanist sans serif fonts.

It seems impossible to reimagine a constructivist or classicistic sans serif without taking one of these previous styles in account. However, its tone of voice can still be different.

A typeface represents a tone of voice, a memory of cultural aspects of a time, faintly resonating a certain Zeitgeist. It is often hidden in the subtle language of shapes, but also linked to applied documents and works associated with the use of the typeface over time. A cultural association is imprinted in the beginning, but perception changes over time.

We interpret new things with the language we learned from existing things. It’s interesting to see how typefaces like Helvetica Neue gained popularity in Japan, a country and culture that in the last century stood for discipline, strictness, but also beauty and simplicity in design and architecture. But it was used for English words, an inspill of Western influenced cultural elements, or the Japanese interpretation of those elements.

Hikari is a font with a Japanese touch. It is primarily a Latin font with no relations to Hiragana, Kanji or Katagana. And yet, the sense for proportions, a strict architecture and its overall feeling transmits a faint memory of Japanese post war culture assimilating and accumulating Western typography.

Hikari will be first released as a family of four cuts, ranging from Light to Black. Italic styles and a monospaced version will follow, with a possible expansion to a super family for various screen and print applications.

A free version for Web design is planned as well, licencesed as a Google Webfont family with a smaller set of styles.

There is still a lot of work ahead until the font will be released: accent glyphs are in works, as well as special characters. It is also possible that at some point in future, Hikari may be released as a Japanese version.

(Please have a look at the attached images, which look better on a MacBook Pro retina than the inline images)

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Core0's picture

Unfortunately I cannot edit my entry. Of course, “monotone” should mean “mono spaced”.

marcox's picture

I'm quite taken with the lowercase a and other subtle touches. Nicely done! What are your licensing plans?

Core0's picture

Thanks – I am not quite sure yet. It will probably be released under the label River, or I may talk to type foundries and see if they are interested. It is still a long way to go until then. I hope to have the basic four versions ready by end of May/June, but I will probably not release them until they have Italic counterparts.

hrant's picture

I usually don't like grots, but this one has an austere charm. I also like your explanatory text very much.

What will the Italic look like?

Licensing: aim high, make it exclusive. The people who must have this would pay dearly for it, and it will develop a cachet by being rare.


Core0's picture

Thanks for your advice! For the Italic I have planned a “true Italic” (despite the discussions lately that constructive sans serif fonts shouldn’t have a round lowercase “a”). I am also thinking about including alternative characters in Open Type, but I have yet to master the software and better understand OT principles.

I have drawn Hikari in Fontographer (after a few initial sketches by hand), then converted it to Fontlab and I have been playing with a test version of Glyphs, which feels much more like modern software, but either I’m missing something or features like extrapolation (changing weight proportionally) are missing. I am suspecting they are done with Multiple Master layers, but I am not sure.

Core0's picture

I have also thought about the free versus exclusive licensing scheme. I think making only a few cuts free (like Regular and Light only) would bring much wider distribution. Once Web designers start using it for websites, a larger audience will be introduced to the font. And that may be the door opener to magazines, book- oder other designers licensing the full package.

hrant's picture

Those discussions aren't "lately". :-)
If you will indeed be aiming for exclusivity with this, you might consider making a special kind of Italic. I would suggest a tasteful variation on a slanted version of the Roman. But if you want it to be more acceptable to more people, make a predictable Italic. Let me use something I was involved in as an example:
The Roman is great, but to me the Italic is what really makes it super special.

I think the "freemium" model you describe can indeed work wonders (although I wouldn't give away more than one style) but make sure it fits with the overall philosophy you adopt.


Bendy's picture

Very nicely done. And I'd concur with setting a good price for it.

Core0's picture

Thanks for the example. I think I have seen Ernestine before. I love how it takes a typewriter inspiration and evolves it into something very charming, playful and in the Italic even delightful typeface. The Italic keeps the proportions and rythm alive, but borrows the handwriting element (as rennaissance and baroque antiquas do), which breaks with the Egyptienne sense over the regular style.

I haven’t begun yet working on the Italic cuts of Hikari, as I am still busy with accents, special characters, subtle weight adjustments, spacing and kerning. And then there are Open Type features I want to look at, before I can even start thinking about the intermediate cuts, like Book (between Light and Regular), Medium, Bold and the Italics. I will try out a few things with the latter before I settle with a theme, but like you suggested, it would be challenging but nice if it could take it all a level higher.

Core0's picture

A lot of cleanup work has been done since my announcement last week. I have completed work on the special characters, like mathematical and Greek glyphs, as well as accents and little headaches, like the ampersand glyph.

It’s always difficult to make a decision for the design of a classicist sans serif. Theoretically, the classicist sans serif follows the shapes of the classicist antiqua and the earlier baroque antiqua, which are standing at the end of an evolution of renaissance typefaces. Theoretically, the classicist sans serif ampersand should derive from these shapes, like seen in Bodoni, Times and Georgia (which in essence, are modern baroque antiquas). However, grotesk typefaces have come a long way in abstracting that shape and modern sans serif fonts have even returned to the roots, going back to the original ligature shape of a capital, handwriting E and the lowercase letter t, forming a ligature of “Et” (from Latin, et).

I tried to come up with an ampersand that derives from the classicist form, but follows the clarity of formal language of the typeface as a whole. I am not sure if I succeeded 100%, but it seemed better than following the recent trend of taking “Et” as a literal ligature.

Your thoughts and comments are welcome – Hikari is still a work in progress.

Core0's picture

Here is a closeup in Hikari Regular:

Core0's picture

A direct comparison of the shapes of &, S and 8:

hrant's picture

Well, it might not be too close to that "8" but to me it is too close to an "8"...

Progress is awesome, but ideology shouldn't be allowed to throw a wrench in the results.


Core0's picture

Isn't the most common ampersand shape, &, also very close to an 8? If I would use a straight E instead of the handwriting E, which looks like a flipped 3, would you think that would work better?

hrant's picture

My own favorite form is open-top and "armless", which you can see here:

And I think you can actually make that work for Hikari since it has that "purity". (It does require some extra kerning though.)

But you might just be able to open the top of the one you have, and be set.


eliason's picture

But you might just be able to open the top of the one you have, and be set.

That's the next step I was going to suggest.

Core0's picture

This helped a lot. Thanks for your suggestions. I will try one more variant with a classic ampersand shape, but I do like this a lot already, particularly how it provides a cleaner, more open look.

eliason's picture

I'd make the top half smaller and bottom half bigger to make the area of the counters closer to equal.

Nick Shinn's picture

The ampersand looks too much like 8.
At text size, readers will be confused.


Your historical terms are incorrect, which may be a language problem.

Grotesk was not a derogatory term.

Frutiger did not spark a renaissance in humanist sans type, as there was never much of that in the first place, other than Gill Sans and Syntax, which was published not long before. The German version of Gill Sans with single-storey /a and /g could hardly be considered humanist—see my post with image here:

Constructivism in type is generally understood to refer to the rectangular, blocky style of lettering used in the Soviet Constructivist movement by Rodchenko etc.

Your understanding of type history and type classification is unconventional.
Either you are spreading misinformation, if readers believe what you are saying, and if they don’t, they will think you poorly informed.

It may well be that Japan has influenced your design of this face, but it is unlikely that anyone else will be aware of Japanese connotations from what is essentially a generic neo-grotesque.

Nonetheless, as you have chosen a Japanese name and are pursuing that allusion, I would recommend that you develop that idea in your writing and branding, and forget the other historical explanations.


I would also recommend that you publish at least eight weights, include multiple OpenType features, and have extended language support. That’s a huge amount of work, but necessary to sell licences for such a subtle genre exercise in such a crowded marketplace.

Core0's picture

My education in graphic design was at the Schule für Gestaltung in St. Gallen, where I had two typography teachers from 1983 until 1989, one from Zurich and one from St. Gallen.

It may sound surprising, but even with the three design schools of Basel, Zurich and St. Gallen, there was a subtle rivalry among typography teachers about what was correct and what was incorrect.

I remember one afternoon where us students were surrounding a handprint letterpress machine, with printed type specimens in Syntax and Haassche Grotesk hung on the wall. One of the students asked our teacher why they used to call those sans serif fonts “grotesk”, and my teacher replied that at the time before it became popular, typographers found the minimalism and abstraction of shape a lack of elegance and sophistication. They found it was a sign of cheapness and mundanity. He also noted the connection to the ongoing industrial revolution that almost demanded this kind of change in typographic spirit. *

So my reference may not be historically complete, if William Thorowgood really invented the term. Maybe there exists a dissertation clearing up why he came up with the term, but to me, the explanation of my typography teacher always made sense, in art historic context.

The font Frutiger was the first of its kind, which I am sure had an influence on Gerard Unger’s Argo (even if it evolved from Swift), or Luc de Groot’s Thesis family.

Gill Sans and Syntax have a stronger connection to renaissance proportions than classicist or baroque antiqua proportions.

English is indeed my second language. The German word “konstruktiv” is not automatically associated with Russian constructivism. In my typography courses we were touching the works of Jan Tschichold as well, but also Paul Renner’s studies preceding his release of Futura.

According to my teachers, there were basically three sans serif directions: the humanist one (Gill Sans), the constructive one (Futura, Bauhaus) and the classicist one (Haassche Grotesk, Helvetica, Univers).

Regarding the Japanese reference in the choice of name – I believe this is enough to give the typeface a certain direction. Any sense of culture and style I project into the Hikari type family may be personal and nothing but a tone of voice I want to convey.

Never the less it is true and relevant for the concept I have chosen. As a designer I was influenced by the assimilation of Western typography in current Japanese culture. It is of course completely irrelevant whether people seeing an application of the font will or will not make this connection – just as much it is irrelevant if an audience will think of the Swiss school of design, when they see an application of Helvetica Neue.

Thank you for your recommendations. They go along with what I suggested throughout this discussion.


* Grotesque:

1. Characterized by ludicrous or incongruous distortion, as of appearance or manner.
2. Outlandish or bizarre, as in character or appearance. See Synonyms at fantastic.
3. Of, relating to, or being the grotesque style in art or a work executed in this style.

Chris Dean's picture

Edited “monotone” to “monospaced.”

Core0's picture

Thank you Chris, I would have done that myself if I could!

Nick Shinn's picture

The German word “konstruktiv” is not automatically associated with Russian constructivism.

However, that is not the case in English, where Constructivist will be assumed to refer to Constructivism, by those with any knowledge of art history. Faces such as Futura are termed “geometric”.

Maybe there exists a dissertation clearing up why he came up with the term…

Core0's picture

Interesting, and I do understand that the differences in terminology have their roots in different language and cultures combined. The Swiss design and typography culture is strongly impacted by its past and great minds of those times.

Apparently both references to the heritage of grotesque/grotesk are correct. Here is a translation of the text beneath, which I found in this source:

“Semantically, the term ‘grotesque’ derives from the neo-French language of the 17th century, at first as an expression of the liberal arts to describe non-natural combinations of human, animal and plant parts. In etymology this term is borrowed from the Italian ‘grottesco’, which actually means ‘being part of the cave’. It refers to antique paintings and type or carving signs, which were discovered in caves and rooms filled with rubble. In Germany sans serif fonts are called ‘Grotesk’ until this date [4].”

Original text: “Semantisch stammt der Begiff »grotesque« aus der neufranzösischen Sprache des 17. Jahrhunderts, zunächst als Ausdruck der bildenden Kunst für nicht-natürliche Kombinationen von Menschen-, Tier- und Pflanzen-Teilen. Dieser Begriff ist etymologisch aus dem italienischen »grottesco« entlehnt, das eigentlich »zur Höhle gehörig« bedeutet. Gemeint sind damit antike Malereien und Schrift- bzw. Kerbzeichen, die in Höhlen und verschütteten Räumen entdeckt wurden. In Deutschland werden serifenlose Schriften bis heute als »Grotesk« bezeichnet [4].”

Chris Dean's picture

@Core0: “…in this source.”

I don’t speak German. Can you translate the text at the top of that web page and provide a bibliographical reference in addition to a “click here” link? Ambiguous links also create barriers for visually impaired readers using text-to-speech readers as they provide no contextual information regarding their destination.

Imagine the thread a year from now when that link is no longer active, but someone still wants so search for/reference it.

Core0's picture

I translated the paragraph that was referring to the etymological and semantic source of the word grotesque. I am sorry, but I am not going to translate the entire page of the lexicon.

The German quote sits right beneath its English translation. The whole paragraph beginning with “Semantically...” is the translation of the paragraph beginning with “Semantisch...”.

With all due respect, visually impaired readers may care about the discussion, but they will not see the images I provided, thus they will have no idea what the actual font looks like that sparked this discussion.

That said, I fully support the idea of a barrier-free Web.

Bibliographic reference:
Wolfgang Beinert,

Typo Lexicon
The Lexicon For European Tyopgraphy
Published by Wolfang Beinert : Berlin, Online Since 2002
Typo Academy Berlin

Albert Jan Pool's picture

According to my teachers, there were basically three sans serif directions: the humanist one (Gill Sans), the constructive one (Futura, Bauhaus) and the classicist one (Haassche Grotesk, Helvetica, Univers).

Exactly. No matter what words we use, I think we talk about the same forms.

The typeface Frutiger is the result of Adrian Frutiger being the first type designer having a modernist take on the humanist sans. I can confirm that Frutiger had a huge influence on people like Gerard Unger, Lucas de Groot, Peter Matthias Noordzij and myself. Just to name a few, and not just because of Frutiger. His book Type Sign Symbol was an eye-opner to many designers that were at one side educated as traditional typographers but also appreciated the modernist movement.

In Germany, the constructivist movement in art was one of the major forces that made Tschichold, Renner, Bayer and Schmidt look into the sign-painters and lettering manuals in which geometric typefaces, amongst them were also sans serifs, had been tumbling around for about 50 years. Creating a single storey lower case a from a perfect circle and a vertical stroke is as old as that.

Nick Shinn's picture

@Albert Jan: No matter what words we use, I think we talk about the same forms.

But if I hear the word Constructivist in a discussion of type, I will assume the conversation concerns the heavy rectilinear lettering of Soviet Constructivist posters, not the circle-square-triangle of Futura. This is the cliché:

@Henning: In the late 1980s, American classics like Trade Gothic and Franklin Gothic were used again in Advertising, so the American newspaper title style has been a second strong influence on sans serif fonts…

This makes no sense.
Trade Gothic and News Gothic were all-purpose jobbing types, not just news headline styles. And they had been used continuously prior to the late 1980s, so to say that they were used “again”, implying that they had fallen from use, is incorrect.

There are four places to find type history:
(1) Awards annuals and other design trade hagiography
(2) Foundry specimen books
(3) Type house catalogues
(4) Contemporary publications

Design history as taught in design schools is, of course, academic, and IMO overly invested in (1) and (2).

This next from a type house catalogue in Toronto, 1929, at the end of the Historicist era. You can find Franklin Gothic in North American type house catalogues continuously since its introduction. It was never replaced by geometrics, but augmented.

The use of the term “grotesque” for the older style of sans serif was in no way a value judgement; neither was “gothic”, which initially described Northern European culture, but was subsequently in the 19th and 20th centuries more generally associated with an ornate style of medieval architecture. These words had long since been stripped of their original meanings.

Core0's picture

I’m sorry, but I didn’t announce my work on Hikari in order to trigger a dogmatic discourse about etymologic roots and categorical ontology of typeface specifications throughout the history of time.

I learned through this discussion, that the terminology of modern typography varies a lot in European and American culture, and I assume it may be similarly different in other regions and cultures. And of course, an exchange with people with a passion for a certain field will always create passionate discussions.

However, my intention was simply to introduce you to a new font with a slightly different outlook, with an aesthetic orientation that differentiates itself from the traditional rails of yet another purist Akzidenz Grotesk or Helvetica interpretation. As subtle this reference may be, I regard it as a legitimate direction.

What is it that gives Fenland the flair of a flat, grassy landscape, other than the reference in its name and the intentional art direction by its designer, Jeremy Tankard?

Nick Shinn declares my attempt a generic neo-grotesque and he evaluates the market as a niche. I guess that makes sans serif highlights of recent years, like Dalton Maag’s Aktiv Grotesk, PS Type’s Runda, Christian Schwartz’s Atlas Grotesk and Graphik, Eric Olson’s Colfax, Laurenz Brunner’s Akkurat and Circular, Timo Gaessner’s Maison Neue, Margaret Calvert’s New Rail Alphabet, Playtype’s Grot10 and Virus Fonts’ upcoming release Doctrine, used on the new David Bowie album The Next Day, all together generic niche products.

Maybe so. But they seem to have found an active interest and acceptance, resonating in current poster- and book designs for art museums, design magazines and photo books. It seems to me that there is a bunch of designers who like attributes of the tone of voice of a Helvetica Neue, but they don’t necessarily want to wear the same old shoes.

If typefaces were only designed to follow a trend and become instant hits, we would have the Lady Gagas among them triumph over the ones with a subtler tone of voice. If we called every interpretation of a standard unoriginal, we would lose joy in playing jazz.

Hikari’s design reminded me of wooden framed paper walls, green tea and futon beds. Through its proportions and expression it resembles to me a distinct purity and elegance I see in one of the many faces of Japanese culture, a culture that sees Latin types with different eyes.

I didn’t intend to reinvent the sans serif, grotesque or gothic font genres or classification. My goal was much simpler: to evoke a similar sensual experience, inspiring designers to use a new tone of voice, to see my font become alive in their works, their designs of identities, websites, magazines, posters and books.

That, and I didn’t like to wear the same old shoes.

Link reference list:

hrant's picture

What is it that gives Fenland the flair of a flat, grassy landscape

FWIW, I don't see that (and I even have the printed specimen).


Core0's picture

From what I read, fenland is a term for grassy marshland. Maybe that makes me want to see the slightly bent shapes of long grass in it. The leaves and tree tips, as well as the painted background in the PDF specimen are artistic, stylistic elements that underline the organic feeling of the typeface. Of course, as it is always the case with art direction, it’s all a question of interpretation.

When I first saw specimen of the Fenland family, I was reminded of urban Sweden and a dry, nordic landscape.

Nick Shinn's picture

I didn’t announce my work on Hikari in order to trigger a dogmatic discourse about etymologic roots and categorical ontology of typeface specifications throughout the history of time.

But you did say “your thoughts and comments are welcome”, and that is the kind of discourse that is to be expected at Typophile! (Although I wouldn’t equate a strong argument with dogma.)

I alerted you to the fact that what you had written about the face’s provenance was, in my opinion as someone who speaks English as my first language and is familiar with type and design history in the English-speaking world, especially North America — not quite right — and I have attempted to explain why.

In mentioning the marketability of the face I described it as a generic neo-grotesque, which was not intended as a negative comment. I was influenced by what Ivo Grabowitsch, FontFont Marketing Director, had said last week at the Typo San Francisco conference in his talk about “what type customers need today”, in which he proposed more originality and fewer subtle interpretations.

Accordingly, if one is going to riff on a classic, this makes it a commercial imperative to publish large fonts and big families, which seems to be the case with Aktiv, Runda, etc.

BTW, of that list I wouldn’t class Colfax and Grot10 as neo-grotesque.

Bendy's picture

Though I like the intention to do something a bit different, I think it'd be wise to include a 'normal' alternate. Fonts often have a dealbreaking glyph – for example in the otherwise lovely Arno, I personally have a problem with the ampersand and the five – which can be enough to put people off using the font.

Core0's picture

Thanks for your words, Nick. I am aware of the passionate discussion and I didn’t take it the wrong way. Like I said, I was not so much aware of the differences of terminology in the English speaking and German speaking schools of typography (in a cultural way).

Franklin Gothic, Trade Gothic and other classic American grotesque fonts never went out of fashion in the U.S. and Canada perhaps, but they were never really used in Europe prior to the late eighties, early nineties. I was an art director at a European advertising agency in 1993 and we had all recent editions of the TDC books and subscribed to a couple of typography and design magazines (it was the eighties, they still had money). I remember how our art directors were typographically influenced by what they saw in American print ads. For an example, we didn’t use Futura Extrabold Condensed much, but it was popular in New York ad agencies.

While I am personally more a fan of books, magazines and posters using refined typography, it is a reality that the big living body of typography (= fonts applied in daily life) live in the mass media, mostly advertising in print and on TV, and lately mostly on the Web – which is why I find it important to cultivate the typography that is meant primarily for screen applications.

There are a couple of interesting developments going on, among them responsive typography, different cuts of the same typeface that are used depending on the use of the medium, which means the screen size, the screen resolution, but also the use of the application (surrounding environments). The responsive part of the term derives from responsive architecture, a philosophy or principle that lets people experience their surrounding architecture depending on the circumstances (night/day, winter/summer, few people/a lot of people in the same space, for an example).

I think a modern typeface should indeed be made for multiple purposes and if the designer aims for a wide spread application of their typeface, they should make fonts applicable for these environments – print, screen on TV, high resolution screens on computers, etc.

Hikari is not designed to be a bread-and-butter font for book or longform journalism. But I hope it could become a responsive typeface, with enough weight and spacing variations and cuts (like a monospaced version) for various applications. I will definitely look into multiple languages, but this is the part that makes the release such a big amount of work.

Last but not least, it is my first release in 20 years and I am looking into more ideas for future typefaces, like a humanist sans serif and a renaissance or baroque antiqua.

One last word on constructivism.

I did some research last night and found that the source of russian constructivism was demolished by the Russian Bolshevism around the time of 1920s, but its spirit had sparked a fire that lived on in the rest of Europe as international constructivism, particularly in Germany, where it influenced the creation of the Bauhaus and the associated movement. It had an influence on Paul Renner, when he began working on Futura, but of course the typeface he released is today not classified as constructivist but geometric. Still, in German (and Dutch) language the word konstruktiv is used to describe a dry and strict, rather geometric character of a piece of art, design or article of daily use.

Core0's picture

Thanks, Ben – I agree. This is where OpenType comes in handy. I will look into the option of variations of the ampersand. I share your feeling, by the way, with the lowercase a of Colfax. It is likely what makes the font original, a style element that promotes recognition, but it still looks like a blister. ;)

marcox's picture

I understand your premise, but beg to differ on Colfax. :)

Core0's picture

Sure, Marc – I think Colfax lies balanced between a geometric and a classicist sans serif. I would say it leans towards grotesque, or classicist shapes. Why? Because all endings of open circular shapes (the lowercase “a”, upper left ending, the lowercase “c”, “e”, etc.) are closing with the horizontal invisible line. They are bent towards a 90º up or down direction. Humanist sans serif typefaces often have endings towards a vertical line, or they are slightly bent.

The main feature that makes Colfax lean towards the geometric sans serif is the lowercase “a” with its round belly, similar like Proxima Nova and early alternative versions in drawings of Futura.

Interesting enough, Avenir and Gotham, as well as Proxima Nova, are all classified geometric sans serif typefaces, but only Proxima Nova has a similar lowercase a shape like Colfax.

Nick Shinn's picture

More fundamental then stroke endings is stroke shape, and the near straightness of the vertical stems in Colfax is far from grotesque, more like Albert Jan’s DIN.

Also note the thoroughly “geometric” figures.

Core0's picture

I see your point, but actually there are condensed grotesque typefaces (especially the bold cuts) that do have very straight lines. Take Impact, or Berthold Akzidenz Grotesk Condensed. Colfax is not a condensed version of a typeface, but it uses this pattern throughout the whole family. I agree, it is quite close to DIN, even more the original version, rather than the softer family from FontFont.

I am not saying it should not be classified as geometric. I am saying it is leaning towards a grotesque.

Nick Shinn's picture

True about the condensed grots.
Interestingly, the more recent versions of Univers (or was it Helvetica, or both?) Condensed have dropped the straight edges of the round letters and gone to curves.
Of course I prefer the original.

hrant's picture

Why do you prefer the original?


Nick Shinn's picture

In general I tend to prefer originals; authenticity seems to work for me, for whatever reason.

In this case, I was thinking of Helvetica Bold Condensed—here are samples of the older style (above), and the Neue (below). I find that the original creates a far crisper text block, with more clearly defined white space between the letters, whereas the Neue goes a bit fuzzy and lumpy there:

hrant's picture

I think back when people didn't have a lot of fonts it made sense for different weights/styles to do a different job properly versus look like they all belong together*. But these days when somebody wants a narrow font that's squarish (because, as you imply, that looks better) he chooses the narrow style of a typeface that's squarish all around; he doesn't expect to get that from the narrow style of a roundish font - because frankly that doesn't make sense. So I think in older versions of Helvetica it was good design to have the narrow styles break with the "expected look" of the typeface, but these days that's a lousy design solution.

* Like how even within one font caps could have a different job to do, hence a different look - see my last point here:

As for authenticity, I have to wonder: what proportion of users today expect the different weights of Helvetica to look like they used to look for the previous generation, versus following the expected look of Helvetica as a whole?


Nick Shinn's picture

Authenticity applies to different faces in different ways.
Certainly there is some interest today in a facsimile Helvetica revival—witness Neue Haas Grotesk with its size-specific variants.

Core0's picture

For updates and progress, check out my product page for Hikari:

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