There is a case (get it) to be made that Helvetica is the most used font in the world. It is a standard font in Microsoft and most other desktop publishing software. It is used extensively on signs and billboards, in business correspondence and marketing materials, and just about any medium where words are printed. FontShop and many other type houses rate Helvetica as the #1 font of all time.

But why?

Helvetica as we know it has only been around since the 1960s. It was originally developed in 1957 by Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffmann and named Neue Haas Grotesk at the time, to compete with some popular Swiss font named Akzidenz-Grotesk. The name was changed to Helvetica in 1960. In 1983 it was updated as Helvetica Neue. That is the version I prefer to use. In 2007, there was apparently a big to-do 50th Anniversary celebration for Helvetica with contests for the best use of the font and even a feature documentary released that year. That’s not normal for a font.

I don’t know why.

But I can tell you why I like Helvetica. It’s clean, the ascenders and descender and cross marks and line weights and character widths are all regular, with little or no variation. And it’s complete. There is every imaginable subset, from regular to condensed to compressed to extended, and style, including light, book, medium, bold, heavy, black and extra black. It may not have the subtleties or roundness of some other sans serif fonts, but t’s a durable, universally recognized font that can be used with a light touch or for an in your face headline.

So, use it, even if it’s just for the Hel(vetica) of it.

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