This research assignment encouraged us to dig deeper into typefaces, and why and how they were created. We are exposed to so many typefaces daily, and we usually don’t stop to think about how they came to exist. It was interesting to learn how the conceptualisation and development of a typeface – in our case Helvetica – was so closely interlinked with the social and visual culture of the period from which it originated. It’s never occurred to us that typefaces can accurately capture the zeitgeist of the era in which it was created, especially such a seemingly modern and minimalist typeface like Helvetica.
Another interesting takeaway is that a well-designed typeface can remain timeless and relevant even though aesthetic tastes and preferences can – and will – change drastically over the years. In our case, Helvetica still remains as iconic and has recently experienced a resurgence in its popularity similar to that of it in it’s heyday nearly half a century ago. While indeed Helvetica owed its popularity to its easy accessibility in the past, we feel like this could also be attributed to the versatility and overt neutrality of the font that allowed designers over the years to inject meaning as they saw fit. Thus, while Helvetica may seem plain, its strong ability to represent different characters and meaning could be seen as its unique point.
We were also intrigued by the change in the use of Helvetica over the years. It was adopted and popularised by many corporations in the 70s because of its sleek modernity. However, these days, it has arguably become a typeface that many designers avoid because of it’s overuse, as well as it’s ‘negative’ connotations after so many years of association with corporate culture. These changing trends show the volatile nature of the design industry, and keep us on our toes for the next big thing.
We also learnt that it is important to match the right type of font to the right visual. Presenting a visual with an unsuitable font can influence the viewer’s judgement on it. Typefaces also have the potential to influence the masses’ visual perception, thus altering the impression on how one perceives design. This means that a plain typeface can be popular if the masses frequently recognised it as contemporary and trendy.
In conclusion, we believe that this exercise has given us far more insight into the study and practice of typography, and how it has adapted to (as well as influenced) society over the years.