13 July 2010

Arial versus Helvetica versus...

Thing is, Arial’s faults still don’t make me like Helvetica any better. I wouldn’t mind if both of them disappeared.


There are those who rail against Arial as a poor knock-off of Helvetica. They are known to wail, tear their clothes, and gnash their teeth whenever they spot the impostor insisting that Helvetica should have been used instead.

Bruno Maag feels much the same way about Helvetica, saying that Univers should have been used instead. He has a new typeface, Aktiv Grotesk, which he is billing as the Helvetica killer.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway: If Maag was serious about Aktiv Grotesk replacing Helvetica, he would give it away. That’s how Arial has gotten to where it is.† This is simple marketing hype and publicity stunt. Which is fine; let’s just be clear about it.

One commenter, Eric S., wrote, “Aktiv is to Helvetica as Weird Al Yankovic is to the late Michael Jackson.” That’s an funny observation. I’m not sure if it was meant to be a compliment or a disparaging remark. Personally, I have bought more Weird Al albums than Michael Jackson albums.

In any case, I think I can paraphrase myself here: Helvetica’s faults don’t make me like Aktiv.

Commenter gareth perhaps said it best:

no such thing as a bad type face - just poor choice of typeface

context is everything!

†Note that neither Helvetica or Arial are technically free. They are merely liberally licensed. They are only practically given away. Any Helvetica killer has to be licensed at least as liberally as Helvetica is to have any real chance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The only good typeface is Baskerville.