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le 13 novembre 2009
Who would have thought that the development of the world's favourite typeface would provide such a riveting read but it does. The local heroes are designer Max Miedinger encouraged by the Haas type foundry boss Eduard Hoffmann. Despite the availability of several sans faces in the fifties the company wanted to avoid losing market share for their type foundry and the best way to do was to develop a new face, in a very crowded market.
The book reveals the creation of the face with an amazing amount of fascinating detail, fortunately not just with words but plenty of period graphics and sample type settings (using the type founders favourite word: Hamburger). A real find and reproduced in colour are twenty-seven pages of Hoffmann's personal Journal where he stuck in examples of setting as Miedinger evolved the letter designs. I found it interesting that the only face that was included as a comparison was Berthold's Akzidenz Gotesk (Standard Medium and Bold in English speaking countries) which, in display sizes, was the type of choice for 'Swiss school' designers.
There is an intriguing chapter called A Comparison by Indra Kupferschimd, which looks at all the pre and post Helvetica faces and you'll be surprised at how many there were. The success of the face from 1957 onwards persuaded several type founders to `Helveticize' their fonts by changing a, c, e, s, t and cap equivalents to look as much as possible like the real thing.
The book is nicely produced in the typical Swiss style though that does mean unfortunately that tiny type has to be used somewhere and in this case it's the extensive captions and notes; 6.5 point seems too small to me for ease of reading.
Designers and type fans will enjoy the story of a face that is reliable, practical, neutral and with some letters very sexy.