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Helvetica Redesigns “Now” After 35 Years

And “Now”, is the neue ubiquituous type!

The Helvetica family has been used by countless brands and creative professionals, in millions of designs since its inception. The typeface embodies a clean and versatile design, and the Helvetica Now typeface continues the tradition established by the Helvetica and Neue Helvetica families while introducing a number of improvements.

In 1957, a Swiss designer created what would become the most popular typeface in history. But like Starbucks many decades later, the shortcomings of Helvetica were only made apparent by its ubiquity. The clean lines of the sans serif font were the darling of mid-century modern design, and it was used everywhere.

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The New York City subway uses it for signs. American Apparel, 3M, General Motors, J.C. Penney, Nestlé, Panasonic, Skype, Target, Texaco, Tupperware and Verizon all used it for their logos. The letters of “NASA” on the space shuttle are written in Helvetica.

But it is a product of its times. It doesn’t render well in many digital applications, and for years, graphic designers have had to hack it to make it look better at different sizes. Tech companies began developing their own look-alike typefaces, and Apple moved iOS away from it in 2015.

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Helvetica Now is already getting some feedback from the design community. Erik Spiekermann, Founder and Partner of our member agency Edenspiekermann, said:

This is the typeface Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffmann would have designed back in 1957 if they had known about offset printing, small screens, browsers, digital design tools and UI designers.

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Charles Nix, Type Director at Monotype shared his thoughts about the new font,

Today, we’re asking Helvetica to do more than it ever has before. Previous versions of the typeface weren’t designed to be used in graphic applications that have developed over the last 30 years. As a result, older versions of the font were lacking in some important areas,” said Charles Nix, type director at Monotype.

Helvetica Now solves the legibility and style challenges that brands using Helvetica have consciously and unconsciously faced for years. The design introduces a new chapter in the Helvetica story—expanding its look and utility while reinvigorating its heritage.

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To address these issues, Helvetica’s license holder Monotype commissioned a new version of the typeface, the biggest update since 1983. Helvetica Now come in multiple versions—Micro for small text like photo captions, Display for large format and Text for everyday use. Each version is now more legible on modern screens and devices, but the update also brings back some of the quaint affectations designers originally liked about Helvetica, like a lowercase “a” formed around a single open space.

The result is a better reading experience, as the design’s improved forms and more even spacing mean clearer communication.

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