helvetica logos

Helvetica vs Arial

Helvetica is a widely used sans-serif typeface developed in 1957 by Swiss typeface designer Max Miedinger with Eduard Hoffmann to create a neutral typeface that had great clarity, no intrinsic meaning in its form, and could be used on a wide variety of signage. It’s original name was ‘Neue Haas Grotesk’; it was changed to ‘Helvetica’ (the Latin name for Switzerland) in 1960 in order to make it more marketable internationally. Generic versions of Helvetica have been made by various vendors; Monotype’s Arial, designed in 1982 has identical character widths and is indistinguishable by most non-specialists.

Helvetica is a popular choice for commercial wordmarks, including: 3M, American Airlines, American Apparel, BMW, Jeep, JCPenney, Lufthansa, Microsoft, Target, RE/MAX, Toyota, Panasonic, Motorola, Kawasaki, and Verizon Wireless. Apple Inc. has used Helvetica widely in its software. Helvetica is also widely used by the U.S. government; for example, federal income tax forms are set in Helvetica, and NASA uses the type on the Space Shuttle orbiter. New York City has been using Helvetica since 1989 for many of its subway signs. In 2007, director Gary Hustwit released a documentary, ‘Helvetica,’ to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the typeface.

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