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Helvetica, overused?

Helvetica, originally called Neue Haas Grotesk, was created by Max Miendinger with Edward Hoffman in 1957. It was changed to Helvetica in 1960. Designers of this time were looking for something new and a little more modern typeface, thus giving Miendinger and his crew a reason to come up with a clean, modern san-serif. In 1961 Linotype began selling the font internationally-designers jumped at the chance to use this new typeface. It eventually began showing up everywhere, in corporate logos, signage for transportation systems, fine art prints, and other uses worldwide. In 2007, Helvetica celebrated its 50th anniversary, also the release of the feature length independent film, Helvetica. This film brought up a question many designers have been asking, is Helvetica overused? The average person would never notice, but Helvetica is everywhere! From the street signs in New York to Toyota’s logo, Helvetica has flooded the world of graphic design. Neville Brody says that the typeface is the prime weapon of design. The font a designer chooses and way they follow through sends a message to consumers and lets them know what type of product is being sold. An example he gave was an ad the says “Buy these jeans” in a grunge font. You would think the jeans being sold are styled with holes or have an antique wash. But if that same statement is said in Helvetica, you would think of Gap, clean and ironed clothes. Helvetica is a clean san-serif making it widely usable. But when everyone decides to use Helvetica, it gets repetitive and boring. So why do designers continue using it? Jeep, Target Corporations, Microsoft, American Airlines, iPod, Energizer, etc. Personally as a designer, I would think it would be more creative and better to attempt another san-serif that could work for a particular project as opposed to using Helvetica like everyone else.



  1. jashcrof wrote:

    I actually never even thought about this until reading this post. But it is true, Helvetica is really everywhere. And while a part of me thinks that it is boring to always see the same everywhere, I think it is a very valid marketing tool. I think they use it not only because it suggests cleanliness, etc. but because of readability. Many of the logos, or names that use the typeface use all uppercase lettering. TARGET and JEEP for example, and in the American Airlines logo, the two As are capitalized. Sometimes it can be difficult when using all caps, because the individual letters can blend into each other and look like simple geometric shapes and be harder to read. Helvetica allows the viewer to easily distinguish the individual letter, thus improving readability and brand recognition. So though boring, it is effective.

    Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 4:47 pm | Permalink
  2. victor wrote:

    I’ve noticed this before but I couldn’t name the typeface off the top of my head, even though Quark defaults to it everytime. I think that’s so many other typefaces that can bring a subtle nuance to a design other than Helvetica. When I see it in class, it kind of drives me nuts, because we are to reach out and grab better typefaces yet some people are content to stay on Helvetica.

    Friday, February 29, 2008 at 12:18 pm | Permalink
  3. JJ wrote:

    entirely overused…i find it funny that designers constantly preach innovation and creativity, yet are afraid to break out and use different typefaces than helvetica.

    Thursday, June 23, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

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