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.


Anonymous said...

ehhhh.....nah.... Helvetica is till amazing! Timeless font.

Boots said...

Don't really like that font, to tell you the truth.

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