John Rainsford

Escaping Helvetica

November 16th, 2009

Recently I’ve become dependent on the typeface Helvetica. It all started when I was branding my company, Pixelcode, at the start of this year. The logo, we decided on, was a pixelated ‘p’ so to counteract the hard edges of the pixelated ‘p’, I decided to use Helvetica for the text associated with the company. For my previous branding, I always used Univers, another classic typeface which had a great shape, yet was nice and bold. Once I started using Helvetica, however, I fell in love with how versatile it was, and how it looked so elegant at both small and large sizes.
But over the last year I’ve seen Helvetica creep into a lot of my customer designs, both in web and in print. The straw that broke this camel’s back was this website design ( If Helvetica was my design safety net, I didn’t even attempt to cross the tightrope, I just dived into the safety net.
No one can deny the versatility of Helvetica, or just how good it looks, but it is becoming so popular that the typeface is being celebrated like a work of art (maybe it is!) and I think, for me, it’s time to pack Helvetica away.
For this site, I had all the text set to Helvetica (with Arial and Verdana in the font-stack), including the masthead logo and navigation. I might switch all the text back to one of the more standard web typefaces, and I’m thinking of using a non-standard typeface for the logotype. I just saw a nice roundup of typefaces on Smashing Magazine, and there’s some really nice free typefaces floating around- that’ll be the way I think I’ll go.
As soon as my current batch of business stationery runs out, I think I’ll be redesigning my business stuff with a nice commercial typeface, something not angular but not a Helvetica clone either. It’s testament to the quality of the typeface when it’s near impossible to escape from using it.

Post by John Rainsford

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I'm a web designer and developer for Pixelcode, based in Athy, Co.Kildare, Ireland.

Aside from creating stuff for the web, I screenprint, post short videos and read books.

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