It’s certainly not my favourite, but for printed text Helvetica has to be one of the better fonts in common use. And today the ubiquitous typeface is 50 years old. Can one congratulate a font?
The title and body of this post are set in Helvetica instead of the usual Trebuchet and Verdana*. On screen, Helvetica can seem rather squashed horizontally, and this makes it a little tiring on the eye when viewed on anything but the very highest quality desktop monitors. But to my eye Helvetica is one of the more elegant sans serif fonts.
Helvetica has even had a book published in its honour – Helvetica: Homage to a Typeface, by Lars Mueller – from which I quote…
“It has a modern attitude which lines up with the aesthetic premises of the 1950s and 60s. Helvetica is a corporate typeface, but on the other hand it’s the favourite of hairdressers and kebab shops. It is the butter on the bread.”
Or the sheep dripping on the pitta, perhaps?
Helvetica was designed by Max Miedinger in 1957, in collaboration with Eduard Hoffmann for the Haas Type Foundry, Münchenstein, Switzerland. And it is very, very Swiss – bland, neutral and utterly conformist.
By my counting, that’s two contributions Switzerland has made to world civilisation.
* The Microsoft Corporation’s two main contributions to the digital age are their screen fonts, and DOS 3.1.