Helvetica Impact

tylerjamesmetcalfe's picture

Helvetica is one of the widely used in design today. Why? When and where was it created? What makes it unique when compared to fonts such as Univers or Futura?

Will Stanford's picture

Try the book Helvetica: Homage to a typeface by Lars Muller or the film Helvetica by Gary Hustwit as a good place to start.


Don McCahill's picture

> Helvetica is one of the widely used in design today. Why?

It got selected as the default face in the original PostScript printers as the sans face. Just as Times Roman was the default serif face. Without that, it would be no where as popular (or overused, if that is your view).

paragraph's picture

When and where was it created?

This begs another question: Have you by any chance just typed or copied/pasted your school assignment question here, rather than searching the web for the answer yourself?

Nick Shinn's picture

Have you by any chance just typed or copied/pasted your school assignment question here,

"Helvetica is one of the widely used in design today."

Hopefully the teacher would make more sense.

Dan Gayle's picture

Helvetica is only so popular because Univers was too expensive for Americans. Otherwise it would have been Univers, all the time, everywhere.

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

I don't want DanGayle to be the last one to post an answer in this thread, so I am just going to add that there is a "new" book (er, newly translated into English, that is), Helvetica Forever, which may help to answer tjm's questions.

blank's picture

@dangayle: where did you read that?

Dan Gayle's picture

Mike Parker said it a bunch of times at Typecon. He said that he, as the dude at Linotype here in America, had to choose between Helvetica and Univers for import into America for general use. He said that Univers was probably better, and had a wider range of characters, but that it was much more expensive to license than Helvetica.

And thus, America got Helvetica, while Europe got Univers.

Nick Shinn's picture

Dan, a sweeping generalization based on one man's anecdotal reference is not good history.

Both Univers and Helvetica were readily available from North American type houses from the 1960s on, and type set in either was the same price per character.

There were some differences. For instance, referring to the metal specimen of Fleet Typographers, a shop in Toronto still active in the 1980s (I used them occasionally), one notes:

  • Linotype: Helvetica Light, Medium and Bold with italics; Univers Light, Medium, Bold and Extra Bold with italics.
  • Ludlow: neither (Tempo, a Futura clone, is the sans)
  • Foundry: Helvetica Light, Medium and Bold; no Univers
  • Monotype: Univers Medium and Bold with italics, Bold Condensed, Extra Bold; no Helvetica.
rs_donsata's picture

Because it looks better as a display face than Univers.


Si_Daniels's picture

>based on one man’s anecdotal reference is not good history.

Show of hands - how many people think Starling Burgess designed TNR?

MyFonts does... http://new.myfonts.com/person/Starling_Burgess/

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

And yet clicking on "More info" gives us this:

Was this claim, indeed, well-documented? I was at that TypeCon, but I may have missed this presentation. Can't remember.

kentlew's picture

Ricardo -- The MyFonts entry refers to the ATypI conference in SF in 1994. TypeCon wasn't there until 2004. So indeed, you missed Mike's presentation by about ten years. ;-)

-- K.

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

Oops... Thanks, Kent. I need to pay more attention. :-D

Si_Daniels's picture

I love hearing Mike's stories as much as the next guy. Next time you see him ask him to tell this one...



Ricardo Cordoba's picture

Aw Grandpa, you've linked to that before! ;-)

Si_Daniels's picture

...gotta love John McCain ;-)

Dan Gayle's picture

Ha! Can never get enough of that. Every time I see it I get a laugh.

Syndicate content Syndicate content