Commentary

Raising Helvetica

Three years ago, you couldn’t so much as swing a cat without hitting Lobster, These days, things are looking a bit more upright on the font front. Let’s take a look at the typeface trends that have earned their place as the visual voice of 2018.

That ‘70s font.

These quirky, short-slab serif typefaces have low contrast for maximum legibility across a range of sizes. It’s not their utility that’s appealing to marketers, it’s their good vibe. ‘70s fonts have a warm and cozy personality.

Last year’s Chobani rebrand was the first to bring throwback fonts to the commercial marketplace, featuring a new logotype and bespoke typeface that invokes ITC Clearface, Cheltenham, Windsor and Bookman.

advertisement

advertisement

Since then, these feel-good fonts have found their way into the mainstream such as in clothing retailers Lands’ End and Stoned Immaculate.

Are ‘70s fonts here to stay or will they become pervasive to the point of invisibility? Let’s give it a year or so. I’m enjoying the warmth for now.

All mine.

Bespoke fonts are hardly new, but their ubiquity is. More companies, particularly techs, are developing custom fonts in-house to articulate brand identity.

To wit: Airbnb, Apple, Coca-Cola, CNN, Google (Roboto and Product Sans), IBM, Netflix, Samsung, YouTube.

Even Arby’s got in on the act with a spoof “ink of the sandwich world,” Saucy AF:

As Dom Hennequin explains in a post on the Envato blog, “They wanted a Helvetica of their own.” Can you blame them?

Made by hand.

There’s something unmistakably intimate and honest about handwriting. It delivers an authenticity of voice that typesetting rarely can. It’s hardly surprising that fonts mimicking handwriting are taking up more creative space lately.

Bear in mind: This isn’t your standard chalkboard Pinterest fare. “We’re seeing an uptick in more casual brushstroke fonts that have a little more edge and feel as if they were plucked straight from the era of sign painters,” says Meg Reid of 99designs.com. 

True colors.

When it comes to simplicity and legibility, there’s no substitute for black, but typefaces can communicate greater dimension and reinforce brand identity with strategic use of color.

Enter chromatic fonts.

Colorfonts.wtf breaks it down for us: “A color font file is actually just a regular font file that embeds additional data to display more graphic properties than the contour shapes of a character.” Simple, but the visual impact of chromatic type is dramatic, allowing for a graphic that features gradients, textures and transparency.

Fanfare for the working font.

Any discussion of typeface trends would be incomplete without the obligatory tip of the hat to Helvetica. Polarizing as politics, Helvetica inspires visceral reactions. Some see the iconic 1957 Swiss design as friendly and impartial, while others see it as drab and dry.

Love it or hate it, Helvetica is going nowhere. As Simon Garfield author of "Just My Type: A Book About Fonts," says, “It is ubiquitous because it fulfills so many demands for modern type.”

So, Helvetica may be a safe, less-than-imaginative choice. Nevertheless, it succeeds in being all things to audiences -- and when it comes to marketing, it doesn’t get much more revolutionary than that.

3 comments about "Raising Helvetica".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Kenneth Lomasney from Drum, August 22, 2018 at 3:54 p.m.

    A thoughtful, fun article - gave me a renewed appreciation for the power of fonts (especially Helvetica!).

  2. Virginia Doty from DRUM, August 22, 2018 at 4:04 p.m.

    I'm with Michelle. Love the retro 70's type faces but for how long? 

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, August 24, 2018 at 5:15 p.m.

    Bookman ? Thought it was BookFace.

Next story loading loading..