Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Helvetica: clichéd and safe, like an annoying band-aid single.

I've previously tackled the world’s most hated font, so I thought I'd make the jump to the world's favourite—Helvetica. It is beautiful, safe and a massive cliché.

Helvetica or "The ONLY Sans Serif" as it’s otherwise known was created by Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffmann, though Miedinger often gets most of the recognised credit. The font was originally created with the idea of competing with Frutiger's powerhouse font Univers, which was released the year prior, making a serious storm to the font market.

And well, it has held the sans serif competition off rather well and likely made Linotype a bloody fortune–and that's where the issue starts; it's popularity. Helvetica is a pre-installed font on all Mac systems, it's supported by every web browser and is even more popular than Comic Sans.
The bloody thing replicates more than a rabbit on Viagra in the middle of April.

The font itself is a master craft—it's got a beautifully sharp look to it, it's very legible, it's a very modern font but most of all; it's horrendously overused!
I mean, I do not blame you, it's beautiful; I use it quite a lot as well, but it's become somewhat of a cliché due to this popularity. The problem is that Helvetica is everywhere, and that's why some designers are swaying away from it; earning it this status.

I've said it before and I'll say it again—you don't understand typography if you allow your prejudice to prevent you from using the most suitable typeface for the job. But this doesn't stop Helvetica from being seen this way, and it certainly doesn't stop designers looking at it like I look at Marilyn Monroe Yes, that's a lovely (type)face, but bloody hell stop thrusting it at my poor eyes!

Now, just like a Monroe portrait in a tacky boutique – you'll see Helvetica plastered under every instance of #typography and in almost every portfolio. This isn't really a bad thing, because it's really a great font; but there is only so much wear you can get from Helvetica Bold and it's not suitable for everything you’ve designed ever, in your entire life. It's become a font less of beauty and more a font safety, a font of "well I can't be arsed to think of something suitable so this'll do" and that's what's most annoying me.

Helvetica (as great as it is) is almost completely responsible for the decline in typographic creativity, and the understanding of using typefaces – because anyone with a Macintosh operating system can easily throw it on an old crappy image of a forest with an instgram filter and a quote like "people breathe air – Marc Twain" and suddenly that's typography.

Not only this; it works for people who actually understand design but just sit comfortably and lazily in modern trends and the warm glow of Helvetica's womb – just passing it off like they made this font choice for legibility; but really they just couldn't be bothered to find a font that would work better, so they booted up Photoshop, closed their eyes and slammed their head on the keyboard.

I am not saying Helvetica is a bad font – no, not at all. If I ever achieved anything near to the greatness of that font, well that'd be a bloody miracle. What I'm saying is, too much of anything get really rather dull; and until designers realise that other sans serifs exist, it's just going to continue to bore me as it appears and reappears on every high street or professional portfolio.

I love you Helvetica, and I always will; but I think we should see different people.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

If you hate Comic Sans, you are wrong.

I'm going to say it—if you hate Comic Sans, then you don't really understand typography.

Comic Sans, hate it or hate it; you still know what it looks like, you've read it many times and mostly likely used it before. But why?

Well if you were born in the mid 90's like myself, you'll have used it without even thinking – you'll of been on the Windows XP computer, applying it as a default to some strange abstract line art thing you created on MS Paint. And why did you do this? No-one bloody well knows, but you were a small child with access to hundreds of horrid RGB colours and about 3 fonts that didn't look like a bank logo; you had only a few choices – Comic Sans & Arial and if you wanted to be a bit more historical, it'd be Papyrus. But I'm not going to try and even defend that thing, I don't have the time or effort.

Comic Sans, or "Satan's Hell Spawn Handwritting Fiery Super Horrible Death font" as it's otherwise know was created by Vincent Connaré in 1994 for Microsoft and most likely the release of Windows 98. It was originally created for child friendly use on early windows operating systems; inspired by the lettering of Comic Books and the basic handwritting of small children, in an attempt to connect with that age group – of which it has connected with more children than anything else that I could think of.

It's on the signs of Nursey Schools, it's in every web browser and it's in your mind. I know you can see it, "wow" written over a picture of a dog in luminous green; all the while hurting your eyes. I can see you picturing every terrible Christian comic spread you were ever handed with more Comic Sans in it than mentions of our lord and saviour.

But what if Comic Sans isn't as terrible as you think? What if it's just been used wrong and it's really a typeface of genius? Or are you right, and it really is a steaming bag of dog excrement?
Either way, I don't think it was created with any of this in mind, just the idea of making a font accessible for children wanting to use a computer. And you can't hate anyone for that.

The font in question, in my personal view is actually quite a piece of brilliance. Yes it's ugly but my god, everyone knows it, everyone loves to hate it and everyone was a child and at some point, and it looks bloody brilliant in your childish little eyes, gleaming away at all those pixels in front of you.
I believe Comic Sans is a brilliant font for many reasons and I'll start with the most important—it's friendly and children like it.

When you were a child, you didn't care if that serif had a strong x-height and you didn't care about all the ligatures that a modern serif could offer you; you wanted a font that'd  look great on the card you made for your mum, or on that powerpoint you made for your cat. It's a friendly font, nobody has ever struggled to read it and if I were 6 years old again I'd be right back on my old grey computer making colourful pieces of crap laden with the thing.

Secondly, not only is it friendly and easy to read, but it's also had loads of research into how it helps people read with Dyslexia. There are lots of fonts that do this too, so when you grow up you can branch out the Century Gothic or Verdana. But when you are a small confused person, not understanding why the words on the page make no sense – this frankenstien's monster can be your saving grace.

And finally, don't hate the typeface, hate the person that plastering it on political campaigns and corporate flyers.
You don't really hate it as an entity, you just hate how inappropriate it looks on a huge billboard.
Yes it has horrible angles, bowels and x-height but would using Helvetica really be the right choice on a handbook designed for 2 year olds?

If you actually hate the typeface itself, you don't know enough about Typography. Because I doubt there will ever be a typeface with more impact or usability than Comic Sans.
There are hundreds of typefaces similar to it, that may be better or worse, but it alone created a whole era of humanist typefaces, and inspired a young generation of computer users.

So, if you are really a good designer, you'll use a font for it's suitability and not your own personal opinion. I will certainly never advise the use of it for any design brief, but if you can't see the genius behind the ugly mask, then you should stop pretending you are right.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

We're going for a trip—a trip into your mind.

It's whisky designed to slap you down on your arse!

For our final project of the second year, we were asked to come up with a concept for a brand new whisky, a new identity for single malt scotch—something that had never existed before.
This whisky had to appeal the the younger generation and stand out on the shelves of fancy restaurant or one of those bars that has only grout on the walls.

I went for a whisky so strong that it would make you trip, not to mention all the optional psychedelics you can take with the drink to make the trip experience that little bit more terrifying. I know that young people love to talk about how high they've been and how much alcohol they can handle – so this product lets them do both of those in one easy package.

So this is what I came up with. Trip Whisky – and below are my presentation boards for it.

The concept is basically a whisky for the modern generation, with the hints of the psychedelic past, with illegible writing and a bright colours overlapping everywhere.

Now that I look at it, I feel the branding could be much stronger in terms of aesthetic desirability but that wasn't really one of my aim at the time, because it's referencing the traditional past of psychedelia and drug trips—where everything was so ugly, that it was beautiful.

We were also asked to make some mixer drinks to go with our product; you know, the ones that come premixed in a can like Coke and JD or any other brand mix up you can think of.
For those I thought I might as well make my own twist on existing whisky cocktails, so that it had that 'look us, we are different and hip' feel that every customer of urban outfitters lives their life by.

Although this wasn't completely polished and finalized; I really rather like the idea and I feel the branding has miles more potential than just what I have made of it.
So if you are out there, and want to make an 89% Whisky infused with grubs and nutmeg, in which to partly poison the youth of today and make them feel like they've been sitting in the fields of Woodstock for the evening, let me know!

Monday, 4 May 2015

I've already told you to get loose, so why stop now?

It's Kurt Cobain, with Paul Weller's hair and Debbie Harry's left boob. Also featuring Bob Dylan, Captain Beefheart, 'that guy from the stone roses', Jarvis Cocker and Robert Smith.

That is all.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Trust me, I've Hadfield enough.

I'm actually not as angry as the title may suggest but my goodness that was a wild goose chase.
Oh Hadfield Charitable Trust, I just don't know what you want or how to please you – you are like a deaf unwell animal; difficult and keeping me up at night. I don't know what design you want, and I'm just going for the best I can.

Firstly, even though it was at the end, I haven't a clue what you are trying to tell me with your feedback because it's really rather incorrect. I'm really not sure how to use that feedback, and that font is Georgia, one of the world's most legible fonts.

 I did so many flippin' pages on this logo and it just didn't work – and that's mostly my fault (I think) by my goodness, that was one huge flop. But have a browse of the images bellow, because that's my final concept. Apologies if this post feels a little half arsed, I've almost checked out.

Copyright © Vincent Walden Sucks