In 1957, one of the most powerful figures of our time was born in a small Swiss town. Though the majority wouldn’t even recognise his name, his countless distinct silhouettes are among the biggest players in the marketing and information spheres. He’s worked with everyone in the music industry from The Beatles to Swedish House Mafia. He’s the only one whose talents are diverse enough to justify appearing in advertisements for everyone from American Airlines to American Apparel and 3M to Verizon without being dismissed as a corporate shill. Every day, hundreds of millions of iPhone users are greeted with his face as they go about their days. And yet, he still frequently appears in public without anyone batting an eyelid.
For he is Helvetica. He is the typeface of both the 20th and 21st centuries. He is the symbol of modernism, of efficiency, of approachability and of sophistication. You saw him on the way to work this morning. He’s behind you on the fire exit sign. In some places, he’s even on your government documents and public transportation signage. The omnipresent typographical embodiment of Swiss neutrality brought brands into the age of machinery in the 1960s and beyond, forever changing the way we think about marketing and advertising.
There was a simpler time, though. Continue reading →