Helvetica with what?

iamsam's picture

Hi, I need a modern serif font to go with Helvetica. Given the common use of helvetica on and offline I thought this would be a useful discussion for any designer.

My requirements are a similar geometry and a contemporary style.

Possibilities:
Swift
Georgia
Melior - my preferred option

Thoughts?

dan's picture

If you can get your hands on either of the Indie Fonts books you could find alot of contempory faces that would work well with Helvetica. If you can't find the books go to these sites www.stormtype.com, www.terminaldesign.com, www.ms-studio.com, mvbfonts.com, www.typotheque.com these are good starting points. I would stay away from Georgia as it was created as a screen font not for print.

Thomas Phinney's picture

Miller would be a fine alternative to Georgia, being a similar design but intended for print.

Utopia would also go nicely, I think.

T

giam's picture

Why would you want to mix a serif font with a sans, particularly Helvetica? That's like singing in two different keys.

iamsam's picture

Agreed, you need two distinct typographic styles to create variety of voice in a document. In my case the body copy will be set in helvetica with large quotes set in the serif font.

If you're trying to look authentic the spoken word looks more believable when set in a serif. Large headlines in sans-serif fonts, especially when set in caps, are painful to read.

William Berkson's picture

>body copy will be set in helvetica

arghh. Helvetica is very hard to read as printed body copy - the wide letters and tight fit is awful for body copy in my opinion. It works better in display, but is so overused even there that it can easily look stale.

I'm surprised you haven't gotten flamed out by all the Helvetica haters out there, which includes a lot of Typophiles.

iamsam's picture

Miller is a good fit and recently designed, but it's styling is from the wrong era.

Utopia is good, our largest newspaper in New Zealand is set in it and looks great.

The AGDA (Australian Graphic Design Association) 2003 awards book was set in Georgia and it rocked, it really worked.

Can anyone think of modern companion serif font to helvetica with 'g's like you would find in Helvetica, Din, Gothem, etc.



hrant's picture

> I'm surprised you haven't gotten flamed out by all the Helvetica haters

It's coz he spelled it wrong.

Sam, if you must use a grot for body, replace Helvomita with Unica. And using a serif for titling for a body of sans is sort of strange. If you stick with that, consider an Egyptian.

hhp

thelring's picture

Mr Phinney

Maybe this isn't the right thread. But we hear that Mr. Slimbach is working hard - new Garamond? Are we going to enjoy it soon?


:-)

The Lord of The Ring

Thomas Phinney's picture

What everybody else says. If you're going to use a sans for body text, at least use a more readable humanist sans.

I just assumed you were using the sans for headings and the serif for body text. It would make more sense....

HBM: Why don't you start a new thread? Although it has been discussed elsewhere here....

Cheers,

T

pablohoney77's picture

i{Helvetica is very hard to read as printed body copy}

what sans isn't? i'm a slow enuff reader as it is anyway, no reason to slow me down further with text set in a sans.

hrant's picture

I believe that the most readable sans is FF Legato.
http://www.evertbloemsma.nl

hhp

William Berkson's picture

Paul, I agree that sans text tends to slow you down, and is never suitable for long text. Still, short text can work quite well sometimes.

But the more readable sans are generally humanist, based on the oval rather than the circle. I think there is a problem with spacing in the more geometrical ones - the space between letters is too small compared to the counters. So, for example, Meta is much more readable than Helvetica in text. I think Unger's Vesta is one of the more readable ones.

I'm not sure whether the the theory of Bloesma is really born out by FF Legato, but It is interesting. I'd like to look at it. Thanks for flagging it, Hrant.

Ok, this is one of my pet peeves, but I think Helvetica in printed text is not a mistake but a crime :-)

dan's picture

For some reason Helvetica has become popular again, I don't know why, just like those swash display faces (Courier Swash, Mark Simonson will know what I mean). Take a look at some of the san serif faces from Emigre like Triplex, Tarzana and Cholla

iamsam's picture

It's a classic, somewhat over used but a classic none the less. The job will exist in print and online, it makes sense to use a system font arial/helvetica for body copy. In the right hands it can look fantastic, it's just how you treat it so please respect the decision!

Besides, lots of great work has been done in Helvetica
Fabio Ongarato winning Daniel Liebskind monograph in ISTD02
Macquarie Bank Annual Reports 2001-03

dan's picture

In the 60s and 70s there was alot of great work done with Helvetica too. But there is no reason that the print and the screen font has to be the same. Its two different medias. You could create a "print look" and a "screen look" and relate them to one another by color or graphics, think outside of the box.

John Hudson's picture

Helvetica looks best by itself, preferably in a tidy modernist grid. That is how it was intended to be used, and when paired with a serif face it never looks quite right. Also, Helvetica and her clones/emulants are so ubiquitous on personal computers, that it runs the risk of looking like a default or generic option, unless it is clearly used with great deliberation.

I used to dislike Helvetica, but having worked on the new Helvetica Linotype version I've developed a grudging respect for it.

hrant's picture

Personally, I do respect your "design intent", but not the actual choice of Helvetica for text. In the same way that tree bark does not make a good meal. Tree bark is great, and good for a lot of things, but not for human nutrition.

Fonts (especially for text) have much more than relative merit depending on use. They can have a bad "g", they can be poorly spaced, they can have lousy vertical proportions, ad infinitum. It's not just a matter of fashion.

As for the print/online duality:
1) Most Helvetica lovers hate Arial. I myself think the latter is less bad.
2) There's a limit to how "real" WYSIWYG is anyway. The only way to make Helvetica/Arial look remotely (and never totally) like Helvetica/Arial onscreen is to use full anti-aliasing, and that makes small text excruciatingly blurry. And if you go for 1-bit rendering of Arial (Helvetica's sucks) then it's really not at all the same font in practice anyway. In that case I might use Arial for the screen and Unica for print.

--

If you're here for typographic advice, please keep an open mind - we debunk a lot of crap around here.
If you just want to hear other graphic designer chant "Helvetica is cool", try AIGA or something. :-)

hhp

Thomas Phinney's picture

Arial at normal text sizes on screen is really hard to read. Blech. Plus you have problems like "rn" looking like an "m" and so on.

T

dezcom's picture

>Ok, this is one of my pet peeves, but I think Helvetica in printed text is not a mistake but a crime<

So if Ralph eats a healthy diet of Agzidenz G and then is unfortunate enough to get a stomach flu, Helvetica is what he heaves into the oval-shaped porcelin vessel bolted to the floor of that small room in his house.
Moral--What went down good doesn't come back up that well

david_g's picture

Helvetica is an idea as well as a typeface. Other faces used in conjuction with helvetica dillute the idea. I would not use Helvetica with another face, it's disrespectful to the idea. Use Universe or AG. AG with old style-transitional serif faces might be nice.

hrant's picture

This is scaring me.

So some typefaces are an idea and others are not? How do you tell?

--

Riddle:
Which is better, Helvomita or Fartura?
Neither - they're both just typefeces.

hhp

dezcom's picture

Helvetica is no more an idea than Univers or AG. If anything, Univers qualifies much more as an idea. It is the first typeface to truly encompass the "idea" of family. Look at Fruiger's original display from the late 50s where he shows the joined family of weights and widths in a perfect progression with a logical numbering system to boot.
Frutiger's "idea" was to create a typeface with the possibility of UNIVERSal use.
Helvetica came out at about the same time but IMHO failed miserably at making a better, more homogenous AG.
Don't confuse popularity with ideology. If Univers or Franklin Gothic had been bundled with every computer on the planet instead of Helvetica, there would have been no "Helvidea"

You might also read Bodoni's book. If there is a typeface which might be spawned from an idea, Bodoni is more it than any. Another is Futura or any of the constructivist fonts.

The truth is, Hrant is right, they are all just typefaces.

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

Sorry Hrant "Typefeces" :-)

It would take me too long to find the original Univers display but here is part of it from Ruder's book:
univers

ebloem's picture

Hi everyone, I am new on this forum. I noticed FF Legato was mentioned so I took a look. The discussion about Helvetica is interesting. Helvetica is not bad and it has some mystery.

I understand many graphic designers using it and I think I understand why it is having a revival and probably will be used a lot in the future. It has little to do with the fact that it is on every computer. Helvetica embodies the concept of both our alphabet and our (current) culture very well: rational, simple, separate shapes (I mean more than Gill Sans for example) to express an idea as a whole, with distance).

Helvetica is quite sophisticated but not too much, opposed to Univers being very sophisticated, for many purposes too much. Helvetica is

hrant's picture

Evert, Hello! A warm welcome to Typophile. Where Type is Loved.

--

I think Helvetica was "indifferent" for a while, but now it looks a little old, like a famous actor in his 50s. And Univers looks like Barbarella.

> Why do you anglo-saxons (and now the rest of the world too) use the word "cool"

Maybe it's a reaction against "hot", which was popular right before "cool" became popular? :-)

BTW, I think the really young people use "ice" now...

hhp

dezcom's picture

>BTW, I think the really young people use "ice" now...<

and some of us old people have to use ice in a bag to ease the swelling on our knees :-)

Welcome Evert, pull up a chair and stay a while.

ChrisL

ebloem's picture

sorry to have posted my message 4 times; I got some error response from the server after having it posted.

Hrants's remark that Helvetica is 'old' is just not true ottherwise it would never be used the way it is, for example in the Vodaphone*(see attached image) corporate id and campaign (targetted very much at young people). I do not believe such marketing/advertisement people make mistakes at this level.

There is something else quite mysterious about Helvetica. It is "neutral" here is the definition I found at the internet dictionary:

Not engaged on either side; not taking part with or assisting either of two or more contending parties; neuter (=neither the one thing nor the other; on neither side; impartial; neutral) ; indifferent.

Very good descriptions! These properties can, in certain circumstances, be 'good' for type because although type carries a message, it does not necessarily has to express this message by itself. Invisible typography. Even in a design like Vodaphone this is one of several aspects I think.

A word that is not mentioned is "detached". McLuhan uses this term: "Oral cultures act and react simultaneously, whereas the capacity to act without reacting, without involvement, is the special gift of

ebloem's picture

Is there a limit to the size of messages? This was left out in my previous message: --- About the word 'hot'; Ofcourse I thought of this but in the case of Helvetica you can’t say: “Helvetica is hot’. So the word 'cool' is not just a matter of trend. ---- And another attempt to upload the image:.vodaphone

ebloem's picture

forgot to say: Vodaphone is a very large telecom company, offering o.a. mobile telephone, in Europe everyone knows it.

dezcom's picture

AG, started it perhaps unknowingly. Univers and Helvetica were big parts of the typography of the Swiss/German philosophy of the "neautral" typeface which lends only its clarity to the communication. The typgraphers USE of the face was the area that brought the NON-detached or purposive/active message building. If you look at the works of Emil Ruder and his many students, you will see the same neutral face used again and again but the way it is used is as active to the message and playful as could have been for the time. In the USA, where a far greater variety of faces were used, the construction of the typography was much simpler--even boring. The Face was asked to do much more so it could not be neutral.
One difference is that the neutral faces have to be strong enough to take a beating (see Weingart or April Greiman's work). The not-nuetral faces rely on their own forms for expression and cannot handle the abuse of partial oblitteration and superimposition. Later, the Emigre people put the oblitteration right into the typeface making it less versatile and requiring many more font purchases. You must remember that the time and cost of creating a new typeface in the 50s was orders of magnitude greater than it has become in recent years. In prior times type setters had only a few faces. Choice was minimal. Neutral/versatile faces made great sense. Today, choice is overwhelming. What you can't find ready-made, you can have designed by any of the Typophiles here (or other places too).

It remains to be seen what we do with all this choice. We live in an era of a typeface CostCo or Walmarts. (You can get anything you want at the Typophile resturant--excepting Berthold:-) ).
Hopefully the typographers who use our type will be as innovative as the generation before us.

ChrisL

as8's picture

Helvetica is neutral as a prostitute can be.
Helvetica is a wonderful typeface to my eyes,
but it is like the ritual of the tobacco-pipe,
I love that ritual but I don't think it fits
to me now. Maybe one day, on the rocking chair.
Mr. Evert Bloemsma, why the name "Cocon"?
"Cool" in Italian is not a common word:
to mean something "cool" we say "figo"
which is the male of "figa", from "fico",
the fig fruit; "figa" means "pussy", "haar spel".
Best,
AS

ebloem's picture

To Chris Lozos; I don't understand: "[...] cannot handle the abuse of partial oblitteration and superimposition."

To Alessandro Segalini; The name Cocon I choose I believe because shapes like the "a" in FF Cocon are very round en closed. I choose it when I saw a Moulinex coffee machine named "Cocon" in an advertisement.

regards, Evert

timd's picture

Vodafone actually use Helvetica Narrow* as their main corporate font.
*they keep swapping with Neue Helvetica 57.
Orange Telecom also use Neue Helvetica as their corporate font, although at the uncondensed width, and with 25 or 35 as a display.
http://www.orange.com/english/default.asp?bhcp=1
Presumably/hopefully they were chosen not as a reaction to each other, but as a style-statement (excuse the marketingspeak). Are they really considered hi-tech/modern looks or even cool by the target market? This is a subjective decision made by designers who are outside the target age range. Apart from the overuse of the font I do not have a particular aversion to well-used Helvetica.
Tim

meir's picture

I'm using Clarendon (Light!) in a design I'm now working on and appearantly it looks really nice with Helvetica.
I actually tend to refrain from using more than one typeface in a design, but if they'd twist my arm I'd go for that combo (I think Microsoft's "Century Schoolbook" is pretty similar to Clarendon, if an alternative is needed).

clearbolt's picture

so if you were required to pair up a serf and sans for a design which two would you choose? which are the most commonly paired sans and serifs?

nwe44's picture

Helvetica and Helvetica serif (or maybe this version)
:-)

pablohoney77's picture

how funny. i was just wondering last night what a serifed version of Helvetica would be like. I guess all the bad ideas have been taken already huh?

Miss Tiffany's picture

actually you could think of one as the harmony and the other as the accompaniment.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Typofonderie, JFP's, Ambroise has alternate monocular lc g http://www.typofonderie.com/alphabets/view/Ambroise

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