To Helvetica or not Helvetica, that is the Question

Max Miedinger, the creator of one of the most popular fonts in history was born on this day in 1910. Helvetica was created with input from Eduard Hoffmann in Switzerland in 1957. The font features in logos for international companies such as: American Airlines, Jeep, Toyota, Post-it, Panasonic, 3M and The North Face.

Designers do not sit on the fence when it comes to Helvetica, if the font was a food it would undeniably be Marmite. Some designers argue that the font is boring and has no charisma, likening it to Arial. The Arial font was created by Microsoft in 1982 to be metrically identical to Helvetica so that a document designed in Helvetica could be displayed and printed correctly without having to pay for a Helvetica licence!

Other designers, including myself, would argue that it has unrivalled communication qualities. If you need to convey something clearly Helvetica is a great font; designed as a neutral typeface that has great clarity. Today Helvetica is used for a variety of high profile signage uses including on the streets of the city, which never sleeps, New York.

In recent years designers are making the decision to leave Helvetica in the design wilderness because it is seen as unfashionable. Personally, I look at it from a different perspective; if international companies trust Helvetica to convey their brand name clearly, why discard it as a font option? Maybe the answer is to play to Helvetica strengths, using the font for clarity and navigation and then complementing this iconic font with a visually distinctive typefaces to ensure a visual engaging styling, which is modern, flexible and visually easy to navigate.

No other font has a feature film created about it, so in my eyes Helvetica is a super star. The trick is deciding when and how to use it.

Liven Creative is an integrated creative agency based in Surrey providing Branding, Printed Communications and Digital Experiences to companies in Surrey, Home Counties and London.

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James Glass

An accomplished brand expert, I believe passionately in the integral role that effective design can play in solving business challenges. My approach when working with clients centres predominantly on strategic account planning and direction: listening, distilling critical information and providing innovative and commercially viable solutions which represent a client’s core values and unique strengths to ultimately address the challenges they face.