Helvetica poster

peter jarvis's picture

Hello typophile users.

Im a Graphic design student....yes, another one..

Im doing this project in which i complete briefs set by design studios, this brief is to make an A1 helvetica poster for the 50th anniversary of the typeface, using only 1 colour, set by Michael Place of 'build', a 2 week deadline. Iv had tons of ideas, this one is my favourite so far, and i thought id put it up here to see what people thought of it.

In my research, Helvetica amongst designers i have found, is a default. It the first thing they might set something in, without thought. So I thought id try and make an issue about 'putting thought' into choosing Helvetica. Which would be somewhat ironic on a poster for its 50th anniversary. I have tried to make it look 'trendy' and 'throw-away'to give the message doubt whether i have spent time choosing the typeface.

You're the typographers, my view of Helvetica might well be completely different to yours, id be thankful of any feedback good or bad, whether you think i should take a different route etc


Lex Kominek's picture

I'd put a period after "poster".

- Lex

ben_archer's picture

I like that warm yellow, but actually Peter I think you can do better than this. Make it look like the struggle you say it is.

And that really should be 'whether or not...'

rosem's picture

I feel like kicking myself for saying this (due to a previous project similar to this and the direction my professor wanted everyone to go in (long story)) but why limit yourself to just one style in such a large family ?

begsini's picture

I disagree that you should add "or not-" it is simply redundant. Your statement here makes perfect sense without it. Therefore it is superfluous.

I'm curious about your research that shows designers set things in Helvetica without thought. My intuition would say most serious or good designers always put some thought into their choice of typeface, for even the smallest application.

I do think it works. I think it's witty and the irony comes across pretty clearly. I'm not sure about the "trendy" and "throw-away" part to give doubt as to whether you spent time choosing the typeface. I could imagine the designer of this poster didn't spend too much time debating whether to use Helvetica, because it seems entirely appropriate for the job. The statement, then, would refer to Helvetica's rich cultural heritage and the love/hate relationship contemporary designers have with it, and NOT to any actual choice about using it.

PS I happen to be a designer, not a typographer.

begsini's picture

AND, if one interprets your reversed-out type as having the text highlighted in your design program, that could imply you're immortalizing the actual thought process of choosing a particular typeface. Although I'm not sure if that would be interpreted by non-designers.

poms's picture

I like it overall,
more line-height, please … and use American Typewriter for "Fifty years of Helvetica" :)

peter jarvis's picture

thanks for the comments.

The research into lazy designers comes from the work placements iv been on and my peers, there was many a time on placements where designers around me would say 'oh just shove it in helvetica for now'. However of course im sure most good and great designers think before they design. But theres certainly a lot of bad designers around...

Actually the 'fifty years of Helvetica' bothers me, im not sure how to treat it...


Other ideas iv had for this project are:

-Somehow utilising the 51 weights of 'neue' in reference to the 50 years, although im not sure if it is considered helvetica neues 50th anniversary as it was obviously done later.

-Printing the words 'fifty years of Helvetica' in a white ink over white paper, in reference to Helvetica being 'invisible', in for example a city, its everywhere but nobody sees it.

these are quick mock ups of ideas.....The first one came out of research on a site that listed products and then listed what other products people also like, i typed Helevtica in and got some bazarre results like 'robert deNero', and i thought it was strange because you could never define what someone who likes Helvetica also likes because it has mass appeal. I like this idea however it doesnt do much to comment on the '50 years of Helvetica'

The second idea, on the right, is in reference to how Helvetica in a city environment is walked passed without people looking, they assume what the sign says, if aa toilet sign was spelt wrong i dont think people would really notice. Actually this idea is awful haha.

Ive got about 1 week left to settle on an idea and produce that poster. If anyone has any views on Helvetica that could lead to a good poster idea id be very thankful to hear them.

cuttin shapes's picture

i like the people who like helvetica poster also like one the best. Its quirky and different and the fact that it does not over emphasis the 50 years thing i think is a positive. You could change some the order maybe so it seemed more choronlogical and gave a sense of how Helvetica history.

Bit jealous you got a brief from Micheal C Place hes my current design hero.

peter jarvis's picture

yea he is a hero. Have you seen his poster for the helvetica film?

here it is:


peter jarvis's picture

any more comments on the route i should take?

timd's picture

Really dislike the kerning on that film poster, especially the 1–10.

It seems to me that you are trying to create a homage piece to Build rather than Helvetica and the underline style used as a background highlight feature is ubiquitous in magazines at the moment.
Saying that, I rather like your first image or rather the concept, you could think about not using Helvetica in the text, something like, ‘I considered many typefaces for this poster’. If you stick with your original concept I would look at making the amount of bar that appears behind the characters projects a similar visual amount on the righthand rag. You could also think about what you should consider before using Helvetica, for example the rn combination that can appear as m.
If you consider using the People who like… concept, you should have a careful look at the kerning of the / (and the spelling, even if it is as you researched, it should be spelt correctly).


peter jarvis's picture

thanks a lot for your comments. I think youre right, it does look like a 'build' homage. I think this might be because im actually finding it difficult to use Helvetica, i think i have only used it once before.
The 'highlight' effect really just came out of trying to make the first poster look trendy to sort of undermine whether the designer had spent time on it. Whether this works is another thing.

I think i am going to explore the first idea more.


TypoJunkie's picture

As Tim pointed out, why not try not to use Helvetica?

Good luck!

dsb's picture

i like the 'people who like helvetica' idea the best also. that concepts leaves the viewer trying to connect how the thing mentioned uses helvetica. it also speaks to the omnipresence of the typeface.

although it might be right the way it is, i think i would see what it looks like with the slash kerned so it is not so uneven.

Lex Kominek's picture

I like the "people" poster the best too, but I'd maybe make the words hang off the left side of the page as well as the right, and not continue any words or phrases to the next line.

- Lex

peter jarvis's picture

thanks for the comments.....

iv taken them on board for the the 'people love', i have the words going off view on both sides...screenprinting it this week

timd's picture

>As Tim pointed out

Actually I meant not using Helvetica (the word) in the copy rather than using an alternate typeface, although that could be fun/confrontational.


sconnor's picture

I think it'd be stronger in black, if you're really trying to make a statement about the type. And, if you're really trying to stand out in class, just keep it as basic as possible while all your classmates pull out all the stops.

I also like the basic treatment best on the 1st one-- 'I thought long and hard..'

I like the concept of calling out Helvetica being more than a 'default' font.

I don't really get the spelling it wrong thing. I think maybe you're trying to call out that Helvetica is beautiful, any way you look at it-- trying to strip the meaning away from the name and just set the letters.

I like the names going off just one side. I like the reference it makes to the basic-ness of Helvetica. To me, that's the genius of that version. I think that's conceptually strong.

duncan's picture


All of your ideas are interesting and I would really like to see the final product. Please post a pic when you are done.


dberlow's picture

There is helvetica the typeface (to be honored), and there is helvetica the idea (to be mocked, it seems). who is the client? what are they more interested in? Get, or make a choice because I do not think you can do both well in a single graphic image.

oliverlawrence's picture

Why not 'I thought long and hard about whether to use Univers for this poster.

Fifty years of Helvetica.'

seriously. if it was not a requirement for the project, you could use Univers, or something else.

ben_archer's picture

Exactly. Set it in Arial and see if anyone notices...

chuck's picture

The first one is conceptually and visually the best, in fact it's so simple it's brilliant. But, I thought the same thing as Susan, use black as the background. It's more to point and I think people will more readily "get it."

Stick with Helvetica, that's what it's about, Helvetica The default font.

peter jarvis's picture

i had to screenprint this in a few parts so...some of the leading is bad....but i think overall its nice....as you can see i didnt go for the first idea..only just got round to photographing it

timd's picture

Nice, now where’s the rest of it?


Duncan Forbes's picture

Looks good bro. Sweet print.

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