Undoubtedly one of the most widely used and popular fonts in the world, Helvetica was designed in 1957 by the Swiss typeface designer Max Miedinger with a little bit of help and input from Edouard Hoffmann. Fresh out of the shackles of postwar austerity, Europe began to embrace Helvetica and its neo-grotesque or realist design in favor of modernism. It was a symbol that helped propel the force of a new age, one of mass travel and modern consumerism.
Helvetica is without doubt the most recognizable font in the world
Helvetica’s original design include the termination of all strokes (horizontal and vertical) and unusually tight letter spacing, lending itself to its familiar dense and compact appearance. Some of its major characteristics include a tall x-height that makes it easier to read both in smaller sizes and from farther away, as well as an oblique rather than italic style. The narrow t & f, square-looking s, rounded off square tail of R, two-storied a, and concave curved stem of 7 all are distinguishing features of the font. It is a font of the practicality and modernism that the Swiss (and the rest of Europe for that matter) were undergoing. Its beauty lies in its ubiquity. Versions exist for not only the Western European languages, but also Latin, Cyrillic, Hebrew, Greek, Japanese, Korean, Hindi, Urdu, Khmer, and Vietnamese alphabets.
Which font is used by the most leading brands worldwide? Helvetica.
As for its usage, you can basically find the sleek and familiar modern sans-serif typeface anywhere in the world at any moment. It has been used in corporate marketing and branding for companies such as American Apparel, General Motors, Kawasaki, Nestle, Panasonic, Skype, Target, and even Apple used Helvetica as its typeface of iOS until 2015. In the public sectors of life, the font is heavily employed by the U.S. government, whether it be on your federal tax forms or NASA. Even in transportation settings, New York City’s Metropolitan Authority (MTA, Washington Metro, the Chicago ‘L’, and even Madrid Metro. Its reach on everyday life and very familiar products and services demonstrates just how multifaceted of a font Miedinger conceived more than half a century ago.
Helvetica, the only font that has inspired a documentary film
With such a wide reach, the typeface even managed to inspire a documentary film, Helvetica, in 2007 in order to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the font. Throughout the film, designers explore what Helvetica has meant as it has evolved through the years. Designer Wim Crouwel said, “Helvetica was a real step from the 19th century typeface… We were impressed by that because it was more neutral, and neutralism was a word that we loved. It should be neutral. It shouldn’t have a meaning in itself. The meaning is in the content of the text and not in the typeface.” However, it is clear that the font is associated with authority and corporate dominance — something which has spurred the creation of new styles to break its ubiquity.