Helvetica and Lupton

Back when I first started using Microsoft Word, and when Apple had “Appleworks” (remember that?), I remember using Helvetica as a default typeface. I would think, “wow how ugly is this – this doesn’t look cool at all!”. Eventually, the default/standard had moved to Times New Roman & Arial – typefaces that professors always request their papers to be written in. Helvetica had disappeared off the face of the Earth… So I thought. Little did I know that Helvetica is used in our everyday lives. I didn’t realize that it is literally EVERYWHERE – from street corner signs, to window displays, to corporate logos. One of the quotes from the documentary that stuck with me was that one person said, “Helvetica is everywhere, it is everything, it is like air”. This quote (may be paraphrased) is essentially how I feel about Helvetica in everyday use. Most of the time I don’t notice it, but see it, it doesn’t convey a feeling.

Adversely, one of the things that I thought was interesting was how a consistent typeface can convey so many different feelings when it is used in corporate logos. For example, the American Apparel logo and  The North Face logo convey complete different feelings. It’s brilliant. It’s hard to believe that one typeface can be used so commonly and interpreted so differently. The colors, cap size, spacing, etc. all play a huge role in this. This is similar to what Lupton wrote about how typefaces that are so similar can cause very different and opposite reactions. For example, typefaces that are really sharp can be seen as serious, edgy, and more intense, where as lower case, rounded, and softer typefaces can convey a playful, less serious, and kinder feeling.

Before getting into graphics, I never really noticed how different typefaces and fonts could make such dramatic difference. Although, I do remember trying to create logos for class projects and thinking, “why does this look so unprofessional compared to what companies do?”. Now I realize, I should’ve just taken the easy way out and used Helvetica.


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