Helvetica is Grotesk!

“It is not a letter that’s bent to shape; it’s a letter that lives in a powerful matrix of surrounding space…It’s — oh, it’s brilliant when it’s done well.” – Mike Parker (1929-2014), “Godfather of Helvetica” who died Sunday said these words in the documentary below.

As you can see, Helvetica is all around us (except in this post where I can’t figure out how to change the font!).  One internet commenter named “Lars” put it this way: “Helvetica is the perfume of the city. It is just something we don’t notice usually but we would miss very much if it wasn’t there.”

I have always been impressed with fonts. My father, Clay, a photographer and graphic artist, came home with one of the first Mac computers and while explaining the features said, “And it has like 1000 fonts!” This wasn’t as impressive as Steve Jobs’ famous “1000 songs in your pocket,” but I knew it was something important to design geeks like him.

One of my favorite design geeks, typography artist Danielle Evans of Marmalade Bleue, took on a big project exploring her love of typography for retail giant Target (another Helvetica emblazoned brand):


The fantasy of font continues!

Helvetica actually had crude beginnings as a pre-digital font named Neue Haas Grotesk. Eduard Hoffmann, president of the Haas typefoundry wanted a fresh new font to add to their portfolio. He worked with Max Miedinger to design it. (side note: I want to see the factory tour at the typefoundry. Like, where do they keep the baskets full of dots, dashes, and tildas!).

While we say goodbye to Mike Parker, it is no doubt that this 57-year old font has a lot of life left in it. So, next time you shop at AmericanApparel or Crate&Barrel or buy a Toyota, take time to notice the curves and kerning. You will find Helvetica looking back at you – but no longer will it be “grotesk.”



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