Negativity that surrounds Helvetica today

ken-'s picture

Hi guys, I'm doing my thesis paper on the negative aspects of Helvetica.

Things like the physical flaws of the typeface, the negativities that arises due to the overwhelming success of Helvetica, the possible issues or trends that might occur if the excessive use of Helvetica continues.

I've read articles on the negative emotions towards the font, with people branding the font as conformist, corporate, a fail safe choice and many more. I was wondering if there are even more negative aspects of Helvetica? Like perhaps the physical flaws of the typeface? I know that it is good for header but not body text, its uniform strokes makes it look like an army, hard to read, etc.

My idea is to investigate into the different negative issues with Helvetica, its phenomenon and its impact and tell them to my tartget audience, which are students studying graphic design.

My issue is that designers often fall back to using Helvetica regardless the reasons leading to its overused.

There's always 2 sides to a coin and the same goes for Helvetica. There are much talks about the postive aspects of Helvetica, but not really very in depth analysis of the negative aspects.

Can anyone enlighten me on this? Thanks!

riccard0's picture

The negatives of Helvetica ;-)

Nick Shinn's picture

Several articles I wrote 8-10 years ago, touching on the issue of Helvetica, when it was an issue of interest to graphic designers.

plus the Emigre issue, 2003:

Then there was the movie, which has surely killed any professional cachet the face might have.
Don't you have something more current and relevant to study?

JamesM's picture

> My issue is that designers often fall back to using Helvetica

One reason is that many corporations specify it as their corporate font.

blank's picture

Don't you have something more current and relevant to study?

Agreed. Why are design teachers still letting students beat this dead horse?

ken-'s picture

Thanks guys for the response!

Erm yeah I know it's really a very old thing to talk about but it all sparked off when I was thinking about why didn't I ever use Helvetica in my design at all.

I admit I haven't been very updated on the stuffs in the design world, I'm guilty of that as a student. To me typography is really very interesting so I decided to look into this matter to help me design something better.

Coming from an Asia country, the design culture in Singapore is a mixture of different influences... Helvetica is kinda new to me only these couple of years...

My bad guys for attempting on this subject but its a personal interest of mine :/

Thanks again guys =)

Nick Shinn's picture

Coming from an Asia country, the design culture in Singapore is a mixture of different influences... Helvetica is kinda new to me only these couple of years...

Singapore as backwater?
Sorry, that excuse won't wash.
Your language is English, your alphabet Latin, your economy is booming, and you have the requisite Foster/Gehry/Libeskind architecture, so I would imagine your fashion and technology are as globally current as anywhere else.
Or is there some government censorship of the corrupting influence of hot new H&FJ fonts? :-)

...why didn't I ever use Helvetica in my design at all...

Perhaps simply a mark of good taste?!

William Berkson's picture

Helvetica has three different kinds of problems. One is the problem of overuse so that it looks stale. I'm sure that is the basis of a lot of the objections to it.

The second problem has to do with its unsuitability for extended text. Its horizontally, tightly closed counters, with wide round shapes lead, especially in bold weights give it in display a vibrancy and punch that I think accounts for its popularity. But these qualities, with the tight spacing make it horrible for text. The late Paul Rand said that it "looks like dogshit in text." My own theory is that if you space it more widely the words fall apart visually, so that it still isn't good if you try tracking it out in text. I think that sans that are narrower, based on the oval, work better in text.

(The screen version of Helvetica, and Arial, its sister, are so hinted as to be different faces, so this discussion doesn't really apply to the screen.)

The third problem had to do with its drawing. It was early on adapted to Linotype, then Phototype, and then redrawn as Neue Helvetica. This resulted in various problems and solutions regarding both its drawing and spacing.

In this fascinating discussion, with examples, Christian Schwartz explains how he tried to recapture, and in fact improve on the merits of the original. Note that he drew a different version for text. Unfortunately, in the link he doesn't give a comparison of the text and display. I guess we'd need a scan of Bloomberg Business Week, where it is now used, for a comparison.

I am still dubious that even with redrawing it can be much good for extended text, but your question has made me curious enough to get a copy of the magazine.

tourdeforce's picture

I think if anyone here had a popular and wide-used font like Helvetica, it wouldn't be a problem for him/she if people used it for any purpose.

I don't see why so many people dislike Helvetica. It is like Metalica... you don't have to love them, listen to that kind of music... but they know the job and that's the end. Same goes for Helvetica - it can work well (even pretty fine) in 90% situations. So only reason I see about hating Helvetica is it became a trend in designer's circle.

If some designer uses Helvetic for his design, it doesn't mean automatically that he's bad designer or don't have a wider knowledge about fonts/typofaces.

Just a opinion of mine ;)

oldnick's picture


Intentional typoface or Freudian slip? ;)

tourdeforce's picture

I'm non-English speaker, so everything is possible :)

Nick Shinn's picture

I don't see why so many people dislike Helvetica.

In the context of this thread, there are better type issues to study now than the Helvetica trilemma Bill describes.
Sure, it is a "good subject", because you can go round and round in circles forever appreciating the different points of view.
But wouldn't it be better for students to get their teeth into something more current -- both a more recent type design and issue?

To use your analogy, Metallica were an innovative band 25 years ago.
I still enjoy cranking up Master of Puppets occasionally, but if I were studying contemporary music now, I wouldn't spend too much time on it.

As for disliking Helvetica, I've outlined my position, as a non-corporate living designer of original typefaces, as to why its ubiquity pisses me off, many times -- which has nothing at all to do with its functional or aesthetic qualities.

This is not just a question of business self-interest -- ideologically (which Bill omits from his trilemma) there is a problem with mass standardization.

The ideological issue, as it applies to Helvetica, is still current, but I don't think it justifies a student (other than of art history/cultural criticism) delving too deeply into an old typeface. If you have precious time to spend getting to know a typeface, surely it makes more sense to acquaint yourself with what's going on now. That doesn't omit studying history and type revivals, merely tired history. Helvetica has been done to death, why not mine an untapped seam of history?

With regards to use of Helvetica, note that Akzidenz Grotesk has become more popular recently (the "posh" Helvetica, as termed by Phil Baines), with designers who are too cool for Helvetica, but don't mind riding its pleasability.

Also, several type designers have explored the idea of the "Ur-grot", going back to design original works in a neo-Victorian style.
James (Dunwich) and myself amongst them:

Figgins Sans
Founders Grotesk
&c., &c.

This is all more interesting than examining the mechanics of Helvetica, I would say.

tourdeforce's picture

Helvetica became a synonym for font in all circles (professional and amateurs) and we can argue as much as we want, but that's just a fact.

I have a great respect for Helvetica, as a historical piece of art that's very useful in big % of commercial or non-commercial situations. The fact that Helvetica became so wide used doesn't make it a bad font (or typEface :)), it just became overused and it became popular, even if you ask someone who doesn't have a clue about design or typography, he/she will say: "Yeah, there's Times New Roman, Arial, Helvetica..".

I think also that one important thing about Helvetica isn't understood well (maybe)... it's the moment when it was made and what it meant in those years, it was a revolutionary move and that moment was enlightening for many designers then (some of them are also alive now) and how they passed on students, colleagues, companies they worked... their impression about Helvetica, so it "survived" in the head of many designers now-days.

My point is that such a font as Helvetica can't become bad itself (when it's obviously not, maybe here and there needs some modern touch for some details (IMHO)). When I was a student, I couldn't stand Helvetica, I though it's an overrated bastard who sits in every chair. Now I think about Helvetica as one of the typographic mover of it's time and don't have a problem with it or cause it's being so used.

About Metalica... well, it's a tricky cause if you look, for example, at Picasso now and try to analyze his paintings for example, you can't tell that they are modern for the time we're living in, just like Metalica in some time lines, but you can't go over without not learning about them.
Same as for Helvetica.

- - - -

I mean... you can't "remove" Helvetica or disable it somehow... you just need to find font that's fitting into your taste :) But you can ignore and don't have a opinion about Helvetica, like with any of 1.000.000 fonts today :)

tourdeforce's picture

About students... big % of them, during the studies are not aware of what's good or bad font/typeface (that's my experience from the students time, looking at myself and my colleagues then), so when you're not sure what's good, you just follow what's others are saying, using, making... and there you have Helvetica again and again and again...

Let's make some other font so popular like Helvetica then :)

Chris Dean's picture

@ken-: Where are you studying and who is your supervisor? Is this an undergraduate, graduate or PhD thesis?

William Berkson's picture

Nick, thanks, you are completely right about the numbing "standardization" problem. Add that as number #4--or maybe #1. That's the kind of thing that led Paula Sher in the movie to say (with a smile) that for her it is the face of the "establishment" and responsible for both the Viet Nam and Iraq wars!

JamesM's picture

I like helvetica more than most folks here (although I don't like it for extended text), but I try to avoid it because pieces done in helvetica tend to look dated, like wearing clothes or a hairstyle from the 1980s.

andrevv's picture

Doesn't anyone feel completely neutral about helvetica? <_<

Chris Dean's picture

Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it.”
~ Edmund Burke (1729–1797)

JamesM's picture

Maybe someone can answer a helvetica-related question...

Years ago in a design magazine I saw a poster in which the word "helvetica" was set very large but in a serif typeface (maybe Garamond?), and the tag line was something like "Everything looks better in Garamond -- even 'Helvetica'".

It was a great poster; made you do a double-take.

I've tried to locate that poster since then, but haven't had any luck. Does it ring a bell with anyone?

riccard0's picture

@JamesM: It was an ad for the Garamond which isn’t a Garamond. There was a post about it on SpeakUp, but now I’m unable to load the site.

ken-'s picture

@Nick: I've read the article, uniformity while I was researching about the topic Helvetica. Admittedly Helvetica is really a very dead and done with subject to do on, many discussions, debates have been spawned from it, yet Helvetica remains one of the few favorite font a designer must have.

I'm know that Helvetica in the US is particularly overwhelming, but in Singapore, Helvetica is not as widespread but its still there, invisible to the ignorant. I'm looking into this in the local context of my school whereby students tends to fall back to using Helvetica regardless the reasons. I'm not saying that they shouldn't use Helvetica, but rather they should understand the reason why they choose it.

I was hoping that by finding out the negativities that surround Helvetica today, I could use it to convince students and make them see Helvetica in a different light. Eventually make them realise that Helvetica is not working as well as they thought... Possibly getting them to move out of their comfort zone and explore other typefaces.

I'm not that great a designer and I'm not that up to date to the latest design trends or issues that's going on. Talking about Helvetica is definitely over and done with... It is kinda hard to find substantial information regarding the "dislike", "negative" sides of Helvetica, many are opinions and while some have concrete evidence, many don't.

What I'm hoping to achieve here is to find out as many negative aspects involving Helvetica and proceed on to conduct investigations to back up these claims. And through these results, create a set of outcomes to convince my target audiences.

@Christopher Dean: I'm studying at Lasalle College of the Arts, doing my final degree year. I do know that Helvetica is a very dead and done with subject to do on, but the information regarding the negative aspects of Helvetica are very few and little.

I broken the negative aspects into 3 parts:
1) Physical traits of Helvetica (which William mentioned above, thanks William =))

2) The phenomenon part of Helvetica, like why did it became known as corporate, conformist, fail safe etc. Is there more?

3) The possible impact, what would happen if Helvetica took over the world... (I know won't happen but one thing is that Helvetica has popularise the use of sans serif typeface I believe. Forgive me if I got this part wrong...

Thanks alot guys, really I gained a lot of new insights and ideas =)

kentlew's picture

> Years ago in a design magazine I saw a poster in which the word "helvetica" was set very large but in a serif typeface (maybe Garamond?), and the tag line was something like "Everything looks better in Garamond -- even 'Helvetica'".

You’re referring to a famous/notorious poster from ca. 1979 by Jack Summerford, in which the single word “Helvetica” was set large, red, in ITC Garamond. There was no tag line.

riccard0's picture

Here's the post (it was on Design Observer):

JamesM's picture

That looks like it. Maybe the tag line I was remembering was just a photo caption an editor had added later. Thanks.

1985's picture

Without getting into the topic of Helvetica itself - Nick and I have duked this out on plenty of occasions before - I would like to suggest that the connotations of any typeface differ from person to person and that though Paula Scher and many others regard Helvetica as the face of authority a different individual or indeed a different generation might view it entirely differently.

William Berkson's picture

This thread has got me thinking now that this actually is a good topic for a student thesis. Helvetica has such a huge presence and is so controversial that it has plenty of food for thought.

Not to create another firestorm, but I think that Times New Roman is a quite different story. It is a great typeface, overused and incorrectly used, but to me not stale. I think the fact that Helvetica is basically as a display face means that even well used it gets stale and goes in and out of style. I think text faces are more like comfortable walking shoes, rather than show-off fashion shoes. As such, I don't think they get stale in the same way and to the same extent as display faces.

Nick Shinn's picture

...the fact that Helvetica is basically as a display face...

That's not how it's used, despite the taste of typophiles.
It's the "default" face for a lot of crucial text, such as the diet info on food packaging, and the instructions on how to take prescription drugs, and their effect.
It wouldn't be used for these functions if it didn't work as a text face.

William Berkson's picture

Nick, of course Helvetica works as a text face, as does anything you can decipher, it just doesn't work *well*. Of course that's an opinion, but it is shared by some very good designers, such as Paul Rand.

blank's picture

Helvetica has such a huge presence and is so controversial that it has plenty of food for thought.

I respectfully disagree. No matter how big the presence Helvetica is, at the end of the day, any exploration will still come down to listing people’s subjective like or dislike of Helvetica. Sure a student could dig up some new subjective arguments for or against Helvetica, but I fail to see how that has much value as a thesis when the same experience can be learned by watching the edited 1-hour version of Gary Histwhit’s film about Helvetica as part of a less redundant thesis related to typography.

evey k.'s picture

i second Dunwich.

the point is that, it's so easy to collect opinions (which are so arbitrary) on the negativities of Helvetica. i mean, if you're gonna graduate and you're telling people that you did a thesis on negativities of helvetica (huh?), which sounded like you did a thesis on the 'why you hated Singapore?', or i don't know, anything. i personally feel, it's an easy way out to shoot someone to the ground, than to create your own ground.
Ken, your subject on negativity isn't gonna prove anything worthwhile. Aside from proving something, you need to give in something new. and not just mere 'observations', copy and paste opinions from others.

and questioning the fate of helvetica's success, is like question why the 'maritim' is a current fashion trend. there's just simply no answers for this. it could be a question of good distribution, word of mouth. but so what? that's not gonna get you to fill up your 60 pages of your thesis! it also sounds like you're more concerned about how helvetica spread, which boils down to 'epidemics', social behavioral influences (read Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell). ok i'm going too far. haha.

i'm not very sure if you should go so deep into that, unless you're focusing on 'social phenomenon' of Helvetica. i feel the challenge would be, to focus on the technical type design part.

in the case of digging up helvetica related issue, i would any time challenge Bruno Maag's Aktiv Grotesk's efficiency which is said to be an in between of Akzidenz Grotesk & Helvetica. which perhaps for all the folks here, something 'up-to-date'.

and that would be that, you need to do alot of homework .. read, read, read.
there's no shortcut around it.
good luck.

William Berkson's picture

Clever, Nick, but that's not extended text, in paragraphs, which is what I mean by text.

It's Helvetica bold with few words and a lot of white space around it, as Erik Spiekermann rightly says in the movie is where Helvetica really works. Even though it's small, on Rand's card it's used in a display fashion.

Here's Helvetica regular used in running text, even in a few lines, looking like shit:

JamesM's picture

Incidentally, Paul Rand's card didn't have a black border, it was just photographed on a black background.

Nick Shinn's picture

Nice way to compromise any font, Bill: set it in a solid block with a large character count per line :-)

...extended text, in paragraphs, which is what I mean by text.

Why not use the proper typographic terms?
When speaking of size, "text" means small, and "display" large -- so your statement "Even though it's small, on Rand's card it's used in a display fashion," doesn't make sense.
If what you really mean is that it's not running text, then say so.

At the moment, you appear to be saying that this non-running small type is display-fashion because it was designed by Paul Rand. However, the non-running text of ALL stationery, not just that designed by the great man, is generally set with care and attention (due to the repeated scrutiny it will be subjected to), which is a quality that may be applied to type at all sizes, not just display.

Yeah, I know, only extended, running text in learned journals and the canon of literature, e.g. Kafka, is worthy to be considered "text".
This is the traditional bookist, anti-jobbing snobbery.
But there are many, many other genres of *body copy* that are quite legitimate forms of commercial text typography, where Helvetica works well, even if one may prefer to see something different.

William Berkson's picture

Nick, I don't think it's anti-advertising to call "text fonts" stuff that was traditionally used for extended text in books and magazines. I grant you that another sense of "text" is just small text used in short bursts, so to speak, and that is a common use of sans. Even in this use I don't think Helvetica fares that well in relation to other sans. For example, the "Percent Daily Values" info in your sample is hard to read, and another sans would probably fare better.

>Nice way to compromise any font, Bill: set it in a solid block with a large character count per line :-)

No, that wouldn't compromise a good font intended for extended text. And it's not a particularly wide measure; at about 64 characters it is still under the maximum ideal single column width. Here it is the same block with a font designed for extended text, set in a solid block, at about the same size with the same default 20% leading:

To me it is way more comfortable a read.

Nick Shinn's picture

And here it is with a more sympathetic interpretation, matching fit:

Now let's see you set the Nutrition Facts in Caslon!

Nick Shinn's picture

I grant you that another sense of "text" is just small text used in short bursts...

Again, that is your own interpretation, not one of the meanings generally understood by typographers:

- the encoded text (characters, not glyphs)

- the counterpart to display, display being defined as a size larger than body type

- the cut of type intended for use from around 8 to 14 pt size, as designated in typefaces with optical sizes, generally Display, Text and Micro (you yourself recently posted a display cut of your Caslon, indicating that you accept the principle that the term "text" relates to size -- unless you intend to name the display version Williams Caslon Text Display :-).

All these meanings are far more specific and precise, typographically, than the idea that "text" type is meant for books.
Indeed, one speaks of "book faces" for books, rather than text faces, although that is equally sketchy.

William Berkson's picture

Nick, I acknowledge that my terminology has been imprecise, but I don't think that the term "text type" is that precise, and only used to refer to size. For example Mitchell & Wightman's Book Typography defines "text font" as "font designed for setting continuous text."

Of course fonts designed for setting continuous text are usually also intended to be used small, so the notion, indeed based on book typography, overlaps. Display type is usually used large, and for short text.

In Paul Rand's card, he was using Helvetica bold in short text, with a lot of white space, small, so that breaks my dichotomy. But I don't think it too much of a stretch to think that Rand was referring to continuous text when he warned his colleague not to set "text" in Helvetica.

You have a good point that my terminology was imprecise, but I don't think it's generally as precise as you say, given the evidence of Mitchell & Wightman.

In any case, my point is that Helvetica is poor for continuous text. Your setting (is that Neue Helvetica light, tracked out?), while vastly improved is still far short of any real book face, including mine. But more relevant, I think you could use Meta or Frutiger or Myriad and have it more readable than Helvetica, for uses like your label. Helvetica performs all right at the top, but with the lowest part, where the text is more crowded, it falls down.

I don't have time to do more settings now, though this is pretty fun.

Nick Shinn's picture

It's Neue Helvetica Regular.
Tracked out, which seemed the right thing to do for a screen grab.

... while vastly improved is still far short of any real book face...

Aren't you circumscribing the layout?
Certainly, most typographers wouldn't set a novel in a neo-grotesque font, but why can't such fonts be used for other kinds of books with continuous text? And what of brochures, manuals, catalogs, &c? Don't these often contain continuous text?
In those one would be inclined to use a more modernist layout -- in narrower columns, rag right.
That's how Rand did it in A Designer's Art, with Univers.

So when he advised against Helvetica, he was not advising against using what you consider to be non-text faces.
The novel is not the only "real" book.

ken-'s picture

What I'm trying to do here is to prove these "negativities", The negativities mentioned in the film Helvetica are opinions of what the designers feel towards the font. It is very much personal perspective.

I am hoping that by gathering more of these "opinions" and analyses them to see if there's a common trend to it. Like I'm pretty sure everyone agrees it's a corporate typeface, which can be seen from the numbers of large companies adopting it. I mean like seriously, as a student I couldn't be bother whether which typeface I chose, I could jolly well use Helvetica in any design work and pull it off. I don't believe in Helvetica being a font for all.

What I'm targeting at is actually the way students design, We tend to conform when we are designing. For instance, I'm guilty of using only one typeface for all of my design works. Not Helvetica... It is also another sans serif. I've been exposed to the word Helvetica quite often during my course of study and that it became known to me as a "designer" typeface. You will not go wrong using Helvetica, everyone uses it. You can justify the reasons on why you use it. But it is not necessary the most appropriate font to use...

I could easily do a thesis on how designers design but Helvetica presents to me as a manifestation of these behaviors and more. Students can't be bother with their choice of typeface they use, as long as it works its fine. That's one reasons I see to why Helvetica is so widespread. My point here is to bring awareness of this problem through understanding the negativities that arises from Helvetica. For example, I read somewhere that, design in Helvetica no longer stands out, as everyone is using Helvetica, it will not win an award. Too much of something is not good. People don't realise it and they carry on doing so.

Thanks again guys for the suggestions for my topic. This is for my thesis paper, but for my studio project I'm taking it in 2 parts.
1) Finding out the negativities and presents to the target audience in a bid to convince or reveal what's going on with the Helvetica trend.

2) The general idea is "how can I get students to explore other typefaces apart from Helvetica". I'm still working on it.

"Helvetica works as a text face, as does anything you can decipher, it just doesn't work *well*."

Helvetica is perceived as neutral by alot of people hence it suitability for a wide range of application. It could work for anything, but is it the appropriate font that best communicates the intended message?

Nick, imo the reason Helvetica is chosen here is perhaps it was intended for the masses to read, which of course is true. Since many corporate use Helvetica to appeal to the masses though their branding. But in terms of readability, it might not be the best font to use. It kinda feels like it looks all the same, except for the bold and varying text size. I do apologise for making any noob comments here...

William Berkson's picture

Nick, I agree that Rand was saying that Helvetica is particularly poor for text, and other sans can be used more effectively.

I do think sans, well set, can be used successfully for multiple line text in print, but just not for a whole lot of text. The more text you have, the more you run up against the limitations of sans.

One problem with sans is that the reader tends to more easily "lose the line" by his or her eye jumping to the wrong line. The designer can counteract this weakness with short lines and a lot of leading, which is what Rand does in the example you show. (Many books on typography also mention the need for this.) But I think that example is too black for extended reading, and it is also not very economical for a long text. Also the advantage of good serif text faces is not just novels but any long text, including non-fiction and magazines and newspapers. At least that is the verdict of the public, and I agree with it.

Wong Shiqin, (ken-) I am wondering from your latest post whether you are missing an important point that Nick and I agree on: the important question is not just which typeface is used but *how* it is used that is critical, both for readability and aesthetics.

I don't object at all to Rand's use of Helvetica on his business card, where it looks great. I think Erik Spiekermann's point in the movie is that Helvetica is very limited as to where it can be both readable and look good. Some people assert that it is "neutral" and can be used everywhere successfully. But in fact it is a "prima donna", and requires very specific conditions to look really good and be easy to read. Otherwise you are better of going with something else, aside from the issue of cultural baggage.

So my fundamental objection to Helvetica is not that it is inherently ugly, but that it has limited successful use, and is constantly used where it doesn't work that well and other faces, including other sans, would work better. Of course there is also the cultural baggage of overuse and stale uniformity, though that's not inherent in the design.

The most horrible thing, which is pretty common, is that people fill a whole page of a report on letter sized or A4 paper with Helvetica or Arial, set solid at small size, and with no tracking. That's really painful to read.

quadibloc's picture

Although Univers is often regarded as more suitable for text setting than Helvetica, I'll have to admit that, at least in display sizes, I think that Helvetica is beautiful - and Univers, by comparison, is almost ugly. But then I'm not fond of Gill Sans either, which to me looks too obviously "British" and blocky and chunky.

On the other hand, I like the traditional News Gothic and Franklin Gothic as well.

A Pen Name and That A's picture

I am very new to the world of typography. I instantly disliked Helvetica. Number one: I was told architects liked it and insisted on using it and not Arial. Number two: its small openings make it look too up-tight. People who insist on using such an ugly font are just pretentious wankers. I really would prefer they used Comic Sans or Papyrus.

type.nasos's picture

Hi Ken,
Im currently living in singapore, can catch up for a coffee if you want.


Corey Holms's picture

My guess as to the main reason why there is negativity that surrounds Helvetica is due to what is called The Helvetica Scenario.

Nick Shinn's picture

Bad news indeed for Scenario (a.k.a. Americana), not to mention Syndrome.

venticaratteruzzi's picture

You must consider to do a little trip to Rochester NY in order to study Helvetica issues in the brand new Vignelli Center for Design Studies, looking at every single draft made by one "Helvetica master".
By the way, Helvetica was a typeface designed to solve alignement problems, not to start a popular culture chapter ;-)

Chris Dean's picture

@William: "One problem with sans is that the reader tends to more easily "lose the line" by his or her eye jumping to the wrong line."

Do you know a study that explores this hypothesis? I know of many that compare serif and sans, but have been unable to find anything about serif's and return saccades (except Rayner et. al, 2003, who associates return saccades with forward and regression saccades as opposed to returning to the next line).

William Berkson's picture

Christopher, no I don't know of any tests on losing the line—either when returning to the beginning of a line or while moving along the line.

But the need for shorter lines and more leading is pretty common advice for setting sans, so a lot of people are reacting to the same thing, whatever it is.

quadibloc's picture

Following up on links related to the Youtube link above, I found out why the question "What is the atomic weight of Intelligent Calcium?" is a very important question. (The answer isn't found in the link itself, but in other related videos.)

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