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Of Carbon and Silicon
Saturday, 16 July 2011
What the Helvetica?!

Everyone knows Helvetica -- it's the dichotomy of typefaces: corporations hate to love it, font enthusiasts love to hate it. But, if you happen to be one of the five or six people this side of the Crab Nebula who doesn't know what Helvetica looks like, consider the following. Target, Staples, CVS Pharmacy, JCPenney, Sears Roebuck & Co. All of the above have corporate logos rendered in the 54-year-old typeface, Helvetica. Most people find it to be largely indistiguishable from Arial. Certainly, you know that one. Of course, there are differences. A typography buff would tell you to look at the letters R, Q, a, e, and t in order to tell one from the other. Arial is a bland, straight sans-serif. Helvetica looks like it could become a serifed font if it tried a bit harder.

Anyway, I, personally, detest Helvetica. I also detest Arial. Did you know that much of the post-Stalin Cold War propaganda on both sides of the Iron Curtain was printed in Helvetica? That's an old freakin' typeface right there. For some reason, giant faceless corporations all throughout the world like to employ Helvetica in all of their printed materials -- particularly tech companies. Their logos are in Century Gothic or Tw Cen MT and their corporate language is in Helvetica. Even Nintendo has been guilty of that on a few occasions.
Nonetheless, I never came to realise just how much I hate it until I received a bit of junk-mail yesterday. Not only was it the snailmail version of spam, an unsolicited waste of paper, but they had the audacity to print my name in Helvetica! Usually, it's Lucida Sans or Times New Roman -- I mean, Times New Roman is just as much of a cliché, but it's preferable to generic old Helvetica! I could instantly tell what the typeface was, mainly because of all the capital Rs in my name: "JEFFREY PERRY".

Anyway, I took this to be a sign. When big business has such disdain for the average consumer that they employ Helvetica to unnecessarily advertise to you, you are no longer a person. You are a consumer identification number in a barcode someplace. As far as the company is concerned, a number is scanned, a name is printed, a letter is sent, your money is received, lather, rinse, repeat.
Let's hear it for capitalism...

Still, I suppose it could have been worse... they could have printed my name in [shudder] Arial, or [shudder-shudder] Comic Sans.

Posted by theniftyperson at 2:10 AM CDT

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