Font faces are one of the most overlooked details in all of design. Typography permeates the world around us, and has done so for thousands of years. Typography is a unique art in the way that it allows emotion to be directly connected to meaning. Like how a song contains music as well as lyrics, written words contain meaning as well as emotion derived from the aesthetics of the letters.
One of the most popular typefaces today is Helvetica. Helvetica is a Neo-grotesque, Sans-serif font created by swiss typeface designer Max Miedinger in 1957. Sans-serif type is type that does not contain serifs, while Serif fonts contain a small stroke at the end of each letter.
Grotesque and Neo-grotesque typefaces are sans-serif fonts designed with certain characteristics like having an R with a curled leg, the ends of curved strokes ending horizontally, and having squareness of curves.
The Neo-grotesque style is derived from Grotesque and only has minor differences like the ends of the curved strokes being oblique and the g being open tailed rather then being spurred.
Helvetica has been modified over the years so that the modern typeface has more then 30 variations to the original.
So aside from an interesting history, what makes Helvetica one of the most popular fonts used by designers?
First, Helvetica is one of the most neutral fonts. In short, it’s a typeface that gets out of your way and allows the content or it’s surroundings to speak. I’m not saying that Helvetica is emotionally neutral, but that it has the ability to blend with it’s surroundings better then other fonts do.
Helvetica is one of the most readable fonts ever designed. The human mind can read it with more ease and speed then other typefaces. Often, signs are written in Helvetica because it is easy to read even when it is in motion.
Simplicity is another reason why so many designers use Helvetica. The shapes of the letters are geometrically symmetrical and simple. Many designers use the typeface at an extremely large size to create form in a composition rather then just for typography.
Helvetica can be used in a wide variety of styles. Just by searching the internet you can find a huge number of styles and applications that use Helvetica. Here are some examples below.