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May 09, 2007


Dana Ames

I see the point. And Helvetica feels cold to me; I don't get a sense of engagement with the text. My eye wants to linger on what I perceive as the beauty of the form, not dismiss it. Interesting.

My favorite fonts span "font history" and all seem to have long ascenders.



Cheeky monkey– I knew there was another reason you texted.

OK, so I can’t resist commenting! And… are you sure I said that?
Even back in the day (when I was a heavy user) I’m still not sure if I bought the whole Swiss ‘objective design’ thing. I was always more interested in it’s social context and meaning– Helvetica as Trojan horse rather than unambiguous communication.

A parasitic process, where the context we ‘attached’ ourselves too felt more important than the words we actually said– a powerful and poetic form of speech, which is so very UN-Swiss. Max Miedinger would turn in his grave.

I think Brody only gets it half-right!


I think the coldness is actually part of the appeal in a way Dana, and then part of the problem too...

And Nic, you can't just leave it with 'Brody is only half right' and 'Helvetica as Trojan Horse'... Meaning? Love to hear more.

Context more important than the actual words? Not sure. I'm sure it was both, and perhaps you're right, but I still feel that the 'Helvetica as invisible font' idea was good... And it did look better than anything else going on.


Brody’s half right as it’s about membership. Buying into a milieu or context– a group of users in conversation. He probably thinks Kraftwerk are bland too!

The parasitic comment is slightly connected. The choice to use Helvetica is nothing to do with objective communication (whatever that is?) or efficiency of reading. From where I’m standing, those arguments are erroneous, at one point in time people found it easy to read Black-letter fonts. I tend to think form plays very little in the overall reading experience, its more about conditioning and what you’re familiar with.

So what becomes really interesting is the context of use and the wider more powerful network of meaning surrounding a font. With Helvetica and 1990’s London, there was an informal discourse going on. Loads of people were picking up on Swiss Modernism and ‘rinsing’ the theory. Essentially it was being used as a reference– in a far more post modern way. Hence the Trojan Horse and the parasite, the typography looked and felt like modernism but in reality was something entirely different.

BTW. 1957 was only the font's release. It had been under-construction since 1951. Maybe I'll post more on that on HG.

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