Helvetica: Typography and 20th Century

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Name: Shane Crudden 2A
Module: Design Theory
Title: 20th Century Visual Communication
Date of submission: 13/12/10
Word Count: 1939

Typography: Helvetica.
“The 20th century was a time of social, cultural and technological revolution and change. Inevitably this had an effect on visual communication of the time.” One of the key factors in typography that I believe to be central to the development and progression of visual communication in the 20th century is the typeface Helvetica. “The Helvetica typeface is one of the most ubiquitous design classics of all time in 2007 it was their 50th anniversary.” “Eduard Hoffman and Max Miedinger a feculence designer who had been an employee of the Hass type family in Munchenstein in Switzerland, was commissioned to redesign a typeface called Hass Grotesk. It was already a stripped-down sans serif font. Miedinger’s redesign was first named Neue Haas Grotesk, not Helvetica. That name was attached in 1960, when the companies Stempel and Linotype of Frankfurt, Germany, took over the design and wanted a moniker that would have international appeal. Helvetica refers to Helvetia, the Latin name for Switzerland.” “Helvetica captured the modernist preference for using clarity and simplicity to suggest greater ideas. The fact that the typeface is clean-cut and simple means that it can be used as a neutral platform in a wide variety of settings – it is the particular context and content of the messages that convey their meaning.” “Miedinger’s project is inspiring because he broke the moulds of his time.” Helvetica changed the perception of type and how it could change the feeling you get from example looking at signs logos and advertisements. The type was rooted in Modernism, verging on Minimalism. Helvetica is the type most identified with the spread of the Swiss style. You see it everywhere: on subway signs in New York, in logos for BMW and American Airlines. Apple installed it on its first computers in 1984; a knockoff called Arial was adopted by Microsoft. The role of typography evolved during the 20th century. “Type is saying things to us all the time, typeface is expressive, a mood, an atmosphere, they give words a certain colouring.” Type gives us vibes and creates an atmosphere when it is used in different signs, books, posters, logos for example. It helps send a message to us in a visual form. We usually pick certain typefaces to help us feel and visualise for example what signs and logos are about. This is why Helvetica is one of the greatest typefaces of the 20th century it is neutral and is used everywhere. Everywhere we look or go Helvetica is there.

Helvetica is used in a variety of different logos and designs. Helvetica is used in loads of famous logo designs. One of these famous logos is the BMW logo (see Fig1). It is world known and even at the present without the typeface people still recognise what it is and what it represents. The letters are bold and look sleek, elegant and contemporary just like the car. This represents everything that BMW stands for, slim line sleek and modern. This makes the brand look wealthy and that the makers of this machine spent allot of time perfecting the car to make it one of the best machines ever made. With this typeface I think it will keep the BMW logo contemporary and modern for a very long time along with other logos and designs that use Helvetica.

Photography: Leica
“The 20th century was a time of social, cultural and technological revolution and change. Inevitably this had an effect on visual communication of the time.” Photography in the 20th century was a way of keeping of recording important times in the past. It helps us visualise in the way peopled lived in the past and actually give you a feeling of what it was like to be a viewer of terrible events such as the war. It draws us in as if we were there in person. It is the closest way of actually experiencing what it was like to live in these conditions. One of the key...
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