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January 11, 2011 / Omar J. Peters

Helvetica All Over the City

MTA Helvetica

Take a look around the built environment in a city, and you’re likely to see Helvetica more than you’d see any other font.

And many of the other fonts you do see, are very likely a derivative of Helvetica or a similar sans-serif font (such as the font used for highway road signs – Clearview or Highway Gothic).

Both New York City Subway and DC Metro heavily use Helvetica on their signage, maps and printed material. The Subway went so far as making Helvetica its official font.

A 2007 documentary aptly called “Helvetica” explores the origin of Helvetica and how/why it has come to take over. The film shows numerous examples of the font being used in urban space.

Helvetica in NYC

Enter Subway Helvetica

PS: The filmmaker, Gary Hustwit has two other documentaries that explore the urban, built environment and cities. The first, called “Objectified,” is on design of electronics/everyday objects, designers’ thought process and what is good design. And the yet to be released, “Urbanized” looks at the design of cities.


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