Back in 1957, a Swiss typeface designer named Max Miedinger designed a font – named Helvetica, which is Latin for “Swiss” – so basic that it could be used all the time for just about anything.
And so it was: on street signs, by just about every major brand (think Panasonic, Jeep, American Airlines, and more), making it the world’s most iconic and recognizable font. It was Helvetica’s world, and everyone else was just living in it. That left the majority of people either loving or hating Helvetica, and as the years flew by and Helvetica didn’t go anywhere, the scales drooped further towards widespread hate.
But in an effort to stand out in a Helvetica world, many tech companies have shed the Helvetica exoskeleton (although, to be honest, a lot of the alternatives ended up looking a bit too close for comfort). Nonetheless, Helvetica’s rights-owning company Monotype has felt the strain of its relationship with the world – and is now fighting for its survival.
With each and every one of its 40,000 characters undergoing a font transformation whose ultimate end result is called Helvetica Now.
If you’re thinking this sounds like an overreaction resulting in a bit of an overstated change, you’re not alone. But the designers have addressed some of the issues that have surfaced with changing technology – like developing 3 new font sizes (called Micro, Text, and Display) to compensate for resizable browser windows.
“This is not a revival. This is not a restoration,” Monotype announced with its release. “This is a statement. This is Helvetica Now: for everyone, everywhere, for everything.”
It’s probably all set to survive. But they might want to tone down the big, bold statement they’re making about their quintessentially big, bold typeface in an era where everyone has a platform for their opinions on undelivered promises…and half of them could be written in Helvetica.