By Noah Kotlarek
Helvetica is the best typeface and thus the only typeface needed. Helvetica is the best typeface because it allows the reader to focus on content, reduces ink usage, and has spawned many lesser typefaces, which proves its greatness. Helvetica is the vehicle for effective writing. Letters and typeface should serve no other purpose but to be a bridge between the reader’s eyes and the writer’s thoughts. When reading Helvetica, the reader is getting the purest form of the author’s intent. This is accomplished by its simple, utilitarian, and neutral design. Massimo Vignelli, the man who designed the New York City Subway map (which uses Helvetica), described design as “a fight against ugliness.” Vignelli believes that there are only three good typefaces; one is Helvetica. He says, “There are people that think type should be expressive… I don’t think type should be expressive at all. I can write ‘dog’ in any typeface and it doesn’t have to look like a dog. But there are people that when they write dog it should bark.” In my opinion, these people, those who want ‘dog’ to bark, maybe shouldn’t be in this country.
Before we delve deeper into the superiority of Helvetica, a history lesson. Helvetica was designed in 1956 by Max Miedinger with the help of Eduard Hoffmann. In Latin, the name “Helvetica” means “Swiss.” Before the typeface was called Helvetica is was known as Neue Haas Grotesk. The name was changed in 1960 by Stempel, a typesetting company, to attract international consumers. Quickly the typeface was adopted by FedEx, American Airlines, Apple, Xerox, Panasonic, and formally Microsoft (which you will see is quite significant).
As for the design, Helvetica lacks serifs, it’s a sans-serif typeface. Serif typefaces have small “decorative” lines added to the ends of the letters. Times New Roman is a classic serifed typeface. Serifed typefaces dilute content. Think of the serifs on Times New Roman as the notch on the iPhone X: it takes away from what is being displayed on the screen. Helvetica is the iPhone X without the troublesome notch. Not only does Helvetica’s seriflessness create simplicity, it also saves precious ink. Students know computer ink is quite costly. Therefore, it is financially irresponsible to use anything but a sans-serif typeface. In fact, I have a hunch that the MLA guidelines were constructed by a gang of capitalist Big-Ink lobbyists and crooks. What’s the purpose of adding unnecessary décor to a letter? There can be only one answer: to sell ink.
A testament to the brilliance of Helvetica is Arial, a 1982 typeface created by Microsoft to mimic Helvetica. Arial is both a cheap knockoff and complement. Helvetica was so successful on Apple computers, Microsoft needed it but did not want to pay Linotype, the company that licensed Helvetica, for Helvetica. Thus, Arial was born. The difference between the two faces lies in parallelism. For instance, if you look closely at the two ends of a Helvetia “c” you will see that the ends run parallel to one another. The two ends of an Arial “c” are not parallel. This creates a hacked off look that adds an unnecessary sharpness. This inferior typeface feels much less wholesome than Helvetica. To me, it’s incomplete.
Part of my reason for writing this article is to inform you about the recent war on Helvetica which has been fueled by Microsoft Word for PC and American corporations attempting to appear friendlier. In 2007, Calibri/Cambria became all the hype. Currently, it is the preset typeface when you first open a World document. It’s the pesky typeface you have to change to Times New Roman when you add your last name and page number. Its softness and “cute” circle dots over the “i”s quickly attracted evil corporations looking to deceive the public. United Airlines adopted Calibri in their “fly the friendly skies” advertisements. The worst corporate offender, though, has to be American Airlines. American used Helvetica for over forty years while all other airlines flaked and changed their logos. But in 2013, American Airlines become the biggest traitor since Brutus the Younger. The company replaced Helvetica for Calibri. It is our duty to save Helvetica in this turbulent age.
Some ask whether Helvetica is the typeface of capitalism or the typeface of socialism, to which I reply it is neither. That’s the point of Helvetica: to be nothing but the vehicle for thoughts from writer to reader. Think of letters and typefaces as the human body and the content of a sentence as the soul. The body, according to Socrates, limits the soul. Similarly, typefaces limit content. Helvetica is like a good philosopher: he cannot completely separate his soul from the body but does his best to do so. Typefaces are necessary evils. Of all the typefaces, Helvetica is the least evil. The next time you see Helvetica, be thankful.