Helvetica is Everywhere, and I'm Voting Yes.

American Apparel. Mac. Crate & Barrel. Target. The list of brands represented with the typeface Helvetica goes on and on. And on. I recently saw the documentary "Helvetica", written and directed by the filmmaker Gary Hustwit. The feature-length film uses the famous, yet controversial typeface to tell a comprehensive story about typography and visual culture over the last fifty years. The documentary includes opinionated commentary from influential graphic designers and theorists. Modernists consider Helvetica to be typographic perfection, while postmodernists think Helvetica is mindless conformity of the masses. It is Coke vs Pepsi. Mac vs PC. Good vs Evil. One professional compares using the typeface Helvetica to "going to McDonald's instead of thinking about food", while another designer compares it to air and gravity. Either way, Helvetica is everywhere, and I'm voting yes. Yes to readbility, yes to communicating clearly, and yes to the right to use other typefaces when you choose. If even renowned modernist Massimo Vignelli believes two other typefaces are acceptable in this world, then I can at least stretch that far. Below are my suggestions for two beautiful sans serif typefaces to consider if you ever need a break from the ubiquitous Helvetica. 1. Avenir The Avenir typeface was designed by Adrian Frutiger in 1988. Avenir is based on two earlier sans serif typefaces, Erbar and Futura. Avenir is unusual because each of its sizes and weights were uniquely designed for versatility in different contexts. 2. Univers Released in 1957, Univers is one of a group of neo-grotesque sans-serif typefaces based on the 1896 typeface Akzidenz-Grotesk. The Univers family has a variety of weights and styles that even when mixed together, demonstrate homogeneity and steadiness. The clear and objective structure of Univers make it a very legible typeface. It works in almost any situation.

Comments

What a great film! I enjoyed it as well - a great idea to show the different perspectives on Helvetica from outright loathing to admiration. Most agree it is a very well-drafted character set, although you mentioned fonts that do better job with weight adjustment. I am a big fan or the precursor of Univers, Akzidenz Grotesque, for its character-giving flaws and weight options.