Happy birthday Helvetica

Me, 19, having just seen Neville Brody lecture at an art school in Balmain, and still scandalised by his advocacy of Helvetica: “It’s the font God would use for His business cards.”

We – and by “we” I mean those of us who could be bothered going to see some English bloke who did album covers talk about typefaces and whitespace for an hour – all had to go through a period of Helvetica-hating: it’s boring, corporate, safe, and normal, and so on. But it really is a beautiful typeface, made even harder to see by its ubiquity.

Brody is quoted here as calling it ‘bland’ but it’s the font of railway station signs, of airport terminals and hospitals, coming from the heart of Europe in the 20th century, from a place and time when the very idea of formal neutrality – to say nothing of modernism itself – has undercurrents of terror. It’s still the font God would use for his business cards.


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