People have asked me why Helvetica is so commonly used in design. I’ve heard comments like “It’s boring”, and “It’s just the default font in Word”.
Helvetica is a sans-serif typeface developed in 1957 by Swiss graphic designer Max Miedinger and has earned its respect with designers because it’s simply one of the most versatile font sets in existence. With an extensive range of weights and styles it can span many applications from industrial signage to fashion brands. And in practical terms, Helvetica’s small ‘x’ height makes typography ledgible at smaller point sizes, which in turn allows a greater word count per page.
Most people’s experience of Helvetica will probably be as a system font on their PC, where they don’t have access to the full range of weights Helvetica offers; which is a real shame, as it deprives these users of its true strength – its versatility.
In some respects its popularity has been its undoing. The general consensus is that the decision to use Helvetica is one that ‘lacks creativity’ in itself, and in many ways that’s true, given that is has been used so badly, so often. The truth is, however, that any design can carry a thoughtful typographic use of Helvetica.
I’m not saying Helvetica is the solution to every problem, but it’s difficult deny the font’s usability and longevity. I’ve grown to appreciate Helvetica the more I work with it, not only for it’s sheer range of usable weights but for it’s pure simplicity and clarity. I love it.