Helvetica: Not Everyone’s Type

By Staff
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Like all graphic designers, I’m faced with the eternal question: Is Helvetica a typeface I should use? Or should I avoid it at all costs? The film documentary Helvetica, which is now out on DVD, may provide some answers. Helvetica is chock full of legends from the design and type worlds weighing in on the most ubiquitous of typefaces. Not surprisingly, their answers pretty much depend on when they came of age as designers. Designers have alternately embraced and reviled Helvetica since it was introduced in the American market in the late 1950s, and the debate continues to this day. Is it the typeface of capitalism, or socialism? My conclusion from watching Helvetica is that it is both. The designers of the ’50s and ’60s were correct to embrace it for its neutrality, and designers of the postmodern era were correct to reject it for its stodgy corporate connotations.

Stephanie Glaros

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