I probably shouldn’t admit this because it reveals my inner geek, but the other day I watched a documentary on the helvetica font. I learned how it was developed at the Hess type foundry by Max Meidinger nearly sixty years ago. It has grown to become the most popular font in the world. What I found particularly amazing is the passion with which people approach the different type fonts I see every day and take for granted. Letters combine to make words and words express ideas. What I hadn’t considered was the role the letters make is conveying ideas. Graphic artists make their livings developing new fonts to help convey substance into meaning. These folks have such a profound understanding of type that they can identify fonts at a glance.
Helvetica’s popularity is based in its simplicity. It’s a clean font that is both serious and elegant. It’s a san serif font, which means it lacks the flourish of fonts like Times New Roman. It’s clarity makes it ideal for street signs. After watching the documentary I was astounded at the prevalence of the font in my life. It’s like a hidden traveler in my daily journey. It watches over me, providing direction and wisdom as I move through my life. It is a harbinger of truth. Helvetica may be too common for some, perhaps lacking individuality and expression. I think we need the certainty and simplicity of Helvetica. It is the basis upon which individuality and creativity may be explored. It is a comforting font. A mien of stability in a uncertain world.