Helvetica and "new media designers"

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Richard Wikstrom's picture
Joined: 8 Mar 2002 - 2:35am
Helvetica and "new media designers"
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A quick question,

why is all the “new media designers” (quotes because the title is absolutely stupid) so obsessed with Helvetica?

They seem to think it’s the best typeface the world has to offer, I definitly do not agree…

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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Because they think being generic (which Helvetica actually hasn’t been for a while now) will make everybody their customer.

My favorite description of Helvetica is by GG Lange, who equates it with a short-torsoed long-armed village idiot.

I myself have a trademark on “Helvomita”.

hhp

Stephen Coles's picture
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I’ll try a response charged with a little less
bias <wink>…

Emigre may not have done it, but the wonderful
Mr. Éric de Berranger sure did. He trained with
Porchez, but I think he surpasses JFP on many
levels. Check Helwissa and the rest.

Stephen

jay wilkinson's picture
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wow… you just really don’t get it do you plain clothes. you guys all have no sense of humor and that’s just plain sad. let me spell that one out for you. get it plain clothes and plain sad. i made a funny.

jay wilkinson's picture
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i agree with you fully though. we should all change the subject and start talking about a different lofty ideal… like typography.

William Berkson's picture
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Bulletin for Teachers:

There is a youthful infection, like chicken pox, technically known as IWC, Infatuation With Coolness. In most cases it does no lasting harm and is even sometimes fun while it lasts. But in some sad cases it becomes a terminal illness. The danger signs are a combination of arrogance and cluelessness. While this still is not enough for a definite diagnosis, you should act immediately. If it progresses to the point where the subject thinks that it’s cool to avoid capital letters, it may be too late. Teachers take warning, and treat IWC in the early stages!

jay wilkinson's picture
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william… that’s weak. coolness has not even entered the equation. as far as capital letters are concerned that’s done because i’m a little lazy if lazy is cool (last time i checked it was not) then great. at least i don’t have a picture of myself as an icon. there’s some real ego involved with that whole bag.

where’s your picture?

jay wilkinson's picture
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i agree ethan. hey, you better watch out though i just noticed that you don’t use caps. you might have this wierd infection i just heard about.

ethan keller's picture
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the more love that “I” can spread the better. or at least that’s what my mommy tells me.

DESIGN ROCKS!

ethan keller's picture
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i’ve noticed a design trend lately and i would like some advice on whether or not to follow or “zag”.

i noticed a plethera of magazines, not just desing mags that the new look is that whole” i’ve been doing coke for three days and haven’t washed my hair look.” along with hand written type that looks scratchy and ununiform. i know that that is a sweet look to go for and everything and that whole subculture of non-druggies trying to look like druggies is cool… but let’s get over this and make design that matters.

please some one advise me on how to turn the market to just plain simple clean graphic design~!

ethan keller's picture
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using caps is totally overated JAY, i noticed you don’t use them either. my infection is green what color is yours?

jay wilkinson's picture
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it’s green too. this could be trouble. i actually dig it because it is ultra utilitarian to strip the formal system of writing down to as bare bones an endeavor as possible. who needs caps. they are such a convention or stylization of the past:-)

jay wilkinson's picture
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ethen, in reply to your other post which i neglected to see initially. you bring up an age old question here <joke>. design and style are very interrelated. i know many here would tell you that you should pay no attention to trend and just follow the standards that have been passed down for years (which were in fact just trends at some point themselves) but i think this is unrealistic. your job as a designer is to provide a service to your client. in many cases but not all that can be to zig instead of zag. this is an attempt to help them stand out. as far as the trend you are sighting, it really depends on how large it is and how entrenched your client is or should be in relation to it. weather to follow a trend or forge a new trend is very dependent on this issue. that being said there is also the element of the designers personal voice. i think this is important too. you need to love what you do and clients in the end will love you because of it. nobody likes a zombie robot that produces something with no soul. anyway i guess that’s a good enough start on such a huge topic.

Kent Lew's picture
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My recollection about the Licko effort that Ole mentioned is that this was Zuzana’s contribution to an article in one of the design magazines a couple years back. I thought it was Critique — but I couldn’t find the article in my collection, so perhaps it was another.

If I remember correctly, the magazine asked several designers to revamp a logo or a design. Zuzana was asked to update Helvetica. In her response, I think she said that she didn’t feel that Helvetica should be redesigned, but that it could benefit from a true italic and so that’s what she contributed.

I don’t think the project was ever meant as anything more than an exercise.

— Kent.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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Tonight, I am that little bit happier not to be a graphic designer.

hhp

jay wilkinson's picture
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yes, it would be wonderful to have little real challenge by simply being just a typographer but then you realize you need to make a living.

ethan keller's picture
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say that any of us were to create that amazingly asthetic typeface that would be remembered for years to come… and such professors lets say at…well art center, were to say, ” so and so” designed this face back in…fill in the blank.

or

would you rather be that graphic desinger who used type as a vehicle to do other great pieces. as if you were know for an array of works, not just one imaculate typeface.

me personally would rather be an all around mature designer that used elements of design to compose real works of art. am i allow to label design as “ART’.” to make a living and to do what drives me as a person to put beauty into the world… that communicates not only to designers but the general public as well.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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It’s strange that you think type only communictes to designers. Only designers who ignore craft think type is made for them. Some of the best design work relies very heavily on the type.

As for what I personally prefer: I would ideally like to make the best type the world has ever seen (I would like to surpass Granjon — it’s a dream, hey), and be recognized for that by my peers. I don’t give a rat’s arse who uses the results, mostly because participating in this Cool Capitalism (which I admit to having to do to some extent, but a lot less than the average graphic designer) reduces my appetite. I’d rather not help sell CRAP to the same vultures who drive their gold Cadillac Escalades to the latest Hollywood releases.

hhp

Paul Giambarba's picture
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What a great discussion! Sorry to have been travelling. First of all, a little historical perspective — I was there, boots on the ground (joke), when Neue Haas Grotesk was introduced. I thought it was heaven-sent. The only guy setting it in the US soon thereafter was Roy Rothstein of Type& Art in Cleveland. Up until then the only decent sans serif we had was News Gothic. In Europe there was Akzidenz Grotesk. I simplify but only because there’s enough text posted here already. When my 25-year hitch with Polaroid ended and they decided to do all the design in-house, converting everything to Helvetica, my parting shot was “Congratulations, your typeface can be seen on every airport toilet throughout the free world.”

Even so, Helvetica is a usable face, Avante Garde an abomination. It simply can’t be read. NHG when set by the Swiss was eminently readable in at least three languages.

Thirdly, there is a difference between being educated and learning. My late Mass. Art schoolmate and friend, Jacqueline Casey, blossomed as a great designer at MIT in spite of a ho-hum curriculum. The same can be said of her colleague, Muriel Cooper. I think it’s all about intellectual curiosity, and if one doesn’t have it, it doesn’t matter where he or she has been “educated.”

David Goldstein's picture
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I like it, I don’t, like it, don’t, like it, don’t, like it, don’t, like it,…..don’t,… like it?

It’s like women(or in some cases men), you can live with or without it.

Eric Olson's picture
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Kent is right but it was HOW magazine.
Feb 2000 issue, “Anatomy of a Redesign”
The Licko Helvetica bit is on Page 69.
Very brief and speculative.
Letters “a” and “z” are examined as a roman,
oblique and then Licko’s true italic version.

-Eric

Kent Lew's picture
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That’s the one. Thanks, Eric. Looking back at the article, it seems to me that Licko’s prototype italic ‘a’ is too heavy at the top and bottom of the bowl. Or, conversely, the stems are too light.

— K.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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I wouldn’t go that far. Once in a blue moon Helvetica is a very good choice. Sure, it’s usually a sad occasion, but serving the client/user often means holding back the tears.  :-)

hhp

ole s's picture
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I had a design savvy client that used Helvetica for years on absolutely everything.
I did a bit of re:design of helvetica myself for this client by doing a unicase to be used on a few web banners. They are on back-up but i will try to dig em’ up and do a post later this week.

Mark Simonson's picture
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Here are a couple of attempts from the seventies to redesign Helvetica:

Helvetica Moditalic and Helvetica Flair

Richard Wikstrom's picture
Joined: 8 Mar 2002 - 2:35am
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Lol, the “helvetica flair” made me chuckle :)

Mark Simonson's picture
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These typefaces used to make me cringe (esp. Helvetica Flair). I still cringe, but with a pang of nostalgia. It’s only a matter of time before somebody with a sense of irony revives HF. If there’s a Helvetica revival, the mutants can’t be far behind.

David Thometz's picture
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I used to cringe at Avant Garde Gothic too, but these days I view it more as an interesting experiment in geometric sanserifs and ligatures. You must admit, it does have a wide array of innovative ligatures. Unfortunately, these aren’t included with most digital cuts of the face.

The fact that Avant Garde Gothic looks terribly dated today may have more to do with its overuse (much like the much-maligned Helvetica) than with its intrinsic design. When it is used well (and, admittedly, that is an extremely rare occurrence) it can shine.

Like Helvetica, it is at its strongest when used as a display font rather than a text face.

Having said that, however, I also should admit that I rarely (if ever) use it.

I can, however, envision a day (perhaps in the far-flung future :D ) when it might become fashionable again. After all, who would have thought that woodcut fonts would have ever returned to a state of vogue? Yet they have, several times, and they still pop up in stunning design even today. Again, it’s all in how they are used.

David
(Seemingly becoming a homely font sympathizer in general) :)

Richard Wikstrom's picture
Joined: 8 Mar 2002 - 2:35am
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wow. I’ll snatch that trademark. Thank yooo! :)

On the other hand, you can be “generic” but still tasteful… I mean, what about frutiger for instance?

The many weights available for Helvetica is a plus though…

iota's picture
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in reply to post #1:

i think one of the reasons its so popular these days in general is because of TheDesignersRepublic. they use it quite heavily in all their work, web and print.

http://www.thedesignersrepublic.com/

iota.

jay wilkinson's picture
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helvetica is god… the fact that people are talking about it on this forum to this degree is testament enough to that. like i said yesterday helvetica is a great all around typeface because it sets very well for titling/display as well as for moderate amounts of copy. helvetica is and will remain a classic type specimen.

Keith Tam's picture
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Alright, alright… can’t we talk about something else instead?!

jay wilkinson's picture
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iota, the popularity of helvetica stems way beyond the fact that a flash in the pan group (who i do in fact love) like the designers republic use of it. it even goes further then the fact that it is just a great all around face. it’s popularity stems from the fact that postmodernism has eaten itself alive and returned to it’s roots in modernism. the modernist aesthetic is alive and kicking again because of postmodernism. how ironic it is but then again it can be expected from a movement as ironic as postmodernism. because helvetica rose to the forefront of the modernist movement it has become a shoe in as far as the retro mimicry of postmodernism is concerned. but it’s the fact that it is such a great face that people have fallen in love with it again.

jay wilkinson's picture
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hahahahaha. keith, it will never end. helvetica will take over the world. it is already half way there resistance is futile… just submit.

brian jaramillo's picture
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AGFA-Monotype has set up a lot of these dummy sites
that link to fonts.com, but they forgot to proofread.

Keith Tam's picture
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People can use Helvetica all they want. I won’t give in.

I’m just wondering what you think of Avant Garde? One of my instructors at school said that it’s like ‘processed cheese’. I couldn’t agree more. And Helvetica is processed Swiss cheese :-) Not really the real thing. Univers is the real thing.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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Velveetica…

BTW, there’s a Frutiger interview in issue #2 of the recently launched “TYPO” (a lustrous garnet of a magazine from the Czech Republic), and one thing he says is: “Helvetica is not really the best typeface for legibility. Weingart said, if someone is using Helvetica he doesn’t know anything about typography.”



And jay, PoMo isn’t dead — it was simply hijacked. It managed to escape, but now it’s lost, and trying to find its true home.

hhp

jay wilkinson's picture
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i didn’t say it was dead i just said it’s contradicting itself in such a way that it seems like it’s on it’s last legs. though contradiction is at the heart of postmodernism it’s own contradiction could mean it’s in it’s glory days.

weingart ,shmienghart… i know he’s mister modern but have you ever looked at his work? it’s not that good. helvetica is god. just submit to it. it will treat you well.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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Hey, Life is contradictory.
Modernism is for kids.

> Weingart

Although what I’ve heard about his teaching style makes me admire him, I don’t like his actual work, no. But at least he eats real cheese.

hhp

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
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Frutiger is dated too.

To me, the current generic is FF Kievit:
http://www.fontfont.de/packages/kievit11231/kievit11231.html
http://www.fontfont.de/packages/kievit11232/kievit11232.html

> The many weights available for Helvetica is a plus though.

Except they have inconsistent features.
(Although they fixed that in the Neue.)

hhp

jay wilkinson's picture
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keith, i think avant garde has too much character and is much too geometric. i don’t really put helvetica into that same category as avant garde. i think avant garde is more of a display than anything else. you could never set copy in it. univers on the other hand is just not a very handsome face. i’ve seen many of my contemporaries at art center come over to the darkside on the univers/helvetica issue. univers is just too organic in it’s letterforms. i’d rather use akzidenz or even frutiger over univers. helvetica is more ridged than universe that’s obvious but why use a half breed face like universe that doesn’t do a good job of being either geometric or humanist.

jay wilkinson's picture
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Hrant, life is contradictory. i think the modernist new this. this little fact of life though doesn’t necessarily make postmodernism correct. it’s not that i don’t value postmodernism i just think that at the end of the day when all conceptual sides have been analyzed into the ground, a decision still needs to be made. systems like modernism work in a much more fluid and economical manner because the decision is easier to arrive at. to discredit the modernist does the same to discredit postmodernists. one springs from the other. which is also part of life.

jay wilkinson's picture
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sorry hrant, i meant to say “knew”

William Berkson's picture
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As primarily a writer and reader, and secondarily a typofile, I emphatically agree with those who say that Helvetica is a rotten text face.

A whole page of Helvetica, especially set wide, is an actual pain to read. I want to kick the person who designed the page whenever I see such a horror.

I really think this is something that can be settled by testing. If you set a page in Helvetica and in, say Adobe Caslon or any of the classic serif types, and ask people I bet you you will get an overwhelming majority of people who say that the Helvetica is harder to read.

The merits of Helvetica as a display face are a matter of taste, but as a text face I think that those who say it is readible are radically and provably wrong, wrong, wrong.

After years of cursing pages — especially letter sized — with Helvetica I thought that no sans could be even decent for extended text. I was astonished by the PDF of Vesta at GerardUnger.com, which is quite readable.

The Humanist sans generally are much better in readibility — Bliss is my favorite for its elegance, but I still can’t see the point of using a sans for extended text. They have a lot of other good uses, of course.

jay wilkinson's picture
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william… realistically with the ideal of “cool” out there who is going to be setting things in caslon. you’ll look like an old fart. but maybe you are (and that’s cool with me). these typefaces though great where built stylistically for different types of output. i’m not dismissing the past because reading a book set in metal that has been letterpressed is a pleasure (i own a letterpress so it’s known that i love the stuff) but most things aren’t done that way anymore and in case you haven’t noticed we aren’t going back anytime soon. as far as books go, yes, nobody wants to see cool and hip when they are reading the latest pulp novel but we are talking about moderate amounts of copy here e.g. annual reports. as far as helvetica as a display it’s one of the better faces out there. it is much closer to being geometric, which make it a shoe in for display. that’s why you see so much of it in use as display. this argument is getting very boring for me by now. i’d rather discus something more interesting like postmodernism vs. modernism. helvetica is a great face this has been decided by the collective not just me.

jay wilkinson's picture
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john is correct and the definition will be a slippery fish until we as a culture have moved beyond postmodernism. only then will the definition of the movement be clear

Hrant H Papazian's picture
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Modernism says Life is entirely “resolvable”. Post-Modernism counters that you can control some things to some extent, but in the absolute, Life is beyond total comprehension.

I’m a Post-Modernist. Which is not at all the same thing as being a hooligan, or a fatalist.

hhp

Keith Tam's picture
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> william… realistically with the ideal of “cool” out there who is > going to be setting things in caslon. you’ll look like an old fart. > but maybe you are (and that’s cool with me).

Jay, I really don’t think that’s very nice… Caslon has its place, and when you need comfortable, prolonged reading then it’s a great choice. I don’t think we as designers are simply making cool things. I’m proud to say that I’m NOT a ‘cool’ designer. I’m a reader-centered designer. Though I can be cool if a project needs me to be cool.

jay wilkinson's picture
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hahahahahaha. sorry keith that did sound mean. i just write in a very plain simple and honest manner. i don’t always mean to offend. i do agree with you on many levels. i think we are all postmodern thinkers here and can see many sides. i’m only bringing up the cool/hip side. it is an important issue, you will never be able to ignore it and it is what gave birth in the past to many of the ideals that you guys are holding up as the be all end all to design.

Tiffany Wardle's picture
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From the PDF listed below:
Modernism & Postmodernism
from Lecture by Jeffrey Keedy, April 1998
modern = contemporary
modernism = ideology
postmodernism = a concept for a minute
Modernism = style and ideology, articulation of form, formalist, rationalist
Postmodernism = reaction, but not a rejection of Modernism. Erasing of boundaries, theory of discourse (most rejected)

Again. An interesting read is J. Keedy’s article in the last edition of Emigre – Modernism 8.0 – the top link has a summation.

Some interesting reading for all of you.

http://www.patricking.com/bitch/
http://art.bgsu.edu/~childers/writing2.html
http://www.fawny.org/typoexpoagogo.html
http://www.new-series.org/?kinross
http://www.typotheque.com/articles/fuse.html
http://www.typotheque.com/articles/EK_PhD_bibliography.html
http://ndm.si.edu/EXHIBITIONS/mixingmessages/essay/typo/t_b.L3.9.html
PDF http://www.foothill.edu/fac/manske/Lecture_notes/PDF/Postmod_Graphic_Des.pdf
http://art.bgsu.edu/~childers/radical.html

Richard Wikstrom's picture
Joined: 8 Mar 2002 - 2:35am
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That was nice. I don’t agree frutiger is dated… it has a timeless quality that I like. As for what helvetica series, I was talking about the neue…