If you are reading this, you know Helvetica. You probably know it too well. You might have loved it at one point, hated it at another, and pretended you didn’t care about it when trying to prove yourself as a designer. No matter what, it’s useful. And it’s classic.
I’ve lived with Helvetica Neue for long enough that I have developed more than a few intimate opinions about it. Although I’m completely unqualified as a type designer I decided to rework it for some of my personal annoyances.
As a product designer I’ve been working in Roboto and San Francisco and I wanted to bring some of the features of those fonts that make them easier to read on digital screens back into Helvetica Neue.
Some of the issues I wanted to address:
- The leg of the R is distracting
- The spur of the a is unnecessarily ornamental
- Foot of the G could feel stronger
- Separation to the dot of the i and j could be increased
- Descender of the y could be reduced
- Terminal of the t could be reduced
- Tail of the Q could feel stronger
- The number 7 could be more structured
I ended up making small tweaks throughout much of the character set such as more open letterforms and kerning adjustments. The real goal was not to make a new font, but instead to make Helvetica Neue feel more contemporary and readable.
I did this work in an application called Glyphs. I had been meaning to play with it for a long time and it lived up to the hype. It’s a robust font editor with a phenomenal workflow. I highly recommend it.
This was a neat project and I ended up learning a lot and getting to know Helvetica better than ever before. I feel less afraid of working with type, but there is so much more to learn.