Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Helvetica is 50 years old

Who is that? In pre-computer era, only people associated with printing or publishing knew Helvetica. Today, anyone who has been using Word Document will know this character whose 50th birth anniversary is being celebrated in many ways across the world.

Much ado about nothing? Not really. In the world of communication, the way words are written or printed conveys as much if not more than the meaning of the word itself. Especially in advertising the fonts are very carefully chosen to subliminally reinforce the message.

Helvetica typeface was initially released as Neue Haas Grotesk and was designed in 1957 by Max Miedinger for the Haas Type Foundry in Switzerland. Its name was changed to Helvetica (an adaptation of Helvetia, the Latin name for Switzerland) by Walter Cunz around 1960. It soon became popular mainly found in subways of New York and in logos of BMW and American Airlines.

While Apple introduced Helvetica on its computers in 1984, it was soon rivalled by the font Arial which was used by Microsoft on its computers. The two look very identical, may be Helvetica is slightly more well defined.

The 50th anniversary is being celebrated with a film as well. Helvetica, by Gary Hustwit, explores today's urban life and how typeface affects it. It is also about designers and their work. Read more abour the movie here. The movie is currently on a world-wide special screening tour. See the schedule here.

-- Article on Helvetica on Star Tribune
-- Article on Helvetica on Typophile
-- Helvetica at 50 on BBC
-- Different Helvetica fonts
-- The Helvetica movie

1 comment:

  1. I am not so fond of helvetica myself, hv stuck to times new roman, arial and theone i really like is arial narrow...