in defense of helvetica

in the creative process, every choice is made with intention. this process and its outcomes are an encapsulation of who you are, and typeface is a key aspect of that system of expression. it plays a critical role in terms of how a word is read and understood. we’ve chosen to express ourselves in helvetica, and we’d like to explain why.

helvetica, the most widely used typeface on the planet, has been nearly ubiquitous since its introduction in 1957. adopted by brands, governments, transit, apparel, and more, it’s familiar and comfortable, yet viewed as simple or ordinary in many circles. typeface has a visual impact on the viewer, and influences the way information is absorbed. the use of computers in the workplace and advancements in graphic design have enabled the creation of wide variety of fonts – and allowed for the production of digitized typefaces to increase exponentially. so why continue to use helvetica with so many other options available? more and more companies are using custom fonts to set themselves apart, but our loyalty to helvetica stands.

helvetica boasts global recognition and appeal. countless brands including Lufthansa, Nestle, Target, Jeep, American Airlines and Verizon have adopted it as part of their brand identity. nyc transit officially adopted the modern helvetica in 1989, having used it in variation since 1970. it was critical that transit signage was easy to read, quickly and from all angles, and helvetica fit that criteria. a consistent and even typeface, it is viewable from a distance and created a standard for the entire transit system.

helvetica is inherently neutral and understated. it feels subtle and familiar and does not inspire discussion in and of itself, rather championing the messages or brands it is representing. messages and stories should shine, without the distraction of an ornamental or confusing font. we believe in the power of words, and believe that a typeface like helvetica allows words have their greatest possible impact.

helvetica also conveys a sense of approachability and transparency. in gary hustwit’s 2007 film “helvetica”, the writer leslie savan said of the typeface, “the smoothness of the letters makes them seem almost human”. this quality puts consumers at ease and indicates a trustworthiness – lending itself to our guiding principle of empathy and its necessary role in establishing rapport with an audience. 

we remain loyal to helvetica because of what it represents and how it connects to our principles and beliefs. our commitment to empathy and clarity are clearly reflected in our choice of helvetica to present ourselves and our ideas.