Design Moment: Helvetica, 1957

The font developed by Swiss man Max Miedinger took over the world

Helvetica was originally called Neue Hass Grotesk – the name change came in 1960

Helvetica was originally called Neue Hass Grotesk – the name change came in 1960

 

How many of us can name a typeface despite seeing several every day? The most common is Helvetica, which since its creation in 1957 has been ubiquitous, used by designers globally on everything from road signs to the small print on packaging, from airline logos to coins. It is a favourite for transport-related signage and logos as it is regarded as easy to read while in motion. It was designed by Max Miedinger, who it is not surprising to discover was Swiss – that country’s contemporary design is famed for its dedication to simplicity. Helvetica – Swiss in Latin – is sans-serif, which means it doesn’t have the small lines or end strokes that adorn other, older typefaces and it is neutral, not referencing any language or era. Helvetica was originally called Neue Hass Grotesk – the name change came in 1960. It was the subject of an eponymous award-winning documentary by film-maker Gary Hustwit. Several versions of Helvetica were subsequently developed, from light to compressed.