Helvetica Now inconsistent terminal/finial form, e and c

I just prepared a medium article at following URL. And I would like to ask your opinion about Helvetica Now inconsistent terminal/finial form. Is it a design error or not?



My Medium article:
https://medium.com/antrepo/e07f85b9199

Comments

  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,638
    edited April 29
    To me the angled counters seem like they were made to show off in marketing materials and sell more fonts. I pulled out a decades-old specimen of 6 point foundry Helvetica on uncoated paper and the Haas designers made it work fine with horizontal terminals. I don’t see how printing today has worsened and made angled terminals necessary.
  • Marc OxborrowMarc Oxborrow Posts: 129
    James, without commenting on the merits of the treatment, surely the argument is for better performance onscreen, not in print? 
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 1,517
    edited April 30
    Changing the shear angle is necessary and –within limits– maintains the character of the design. But I don't agree with changing it from sheared to flat; to me it becomes another typeface.

    Coincidentally, earlier today:

  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 890
    This feels to me like comparing a mascot costume of a flea to an enlarged photo of an actual flea. I assume those sheared ends are imperceptible to the naked eye at their intended reading sizes. If you really want to compare ec, they should be scaled to their respective target sizes.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,638
    James, without commenting on the merits of the treatment, surely the argument is for better performance onscreen, not in print? 
    Good point. Sometimes I forget that most of the world won’t be using HiDPI displays for years.
  • I assume those sheared ends are imperceptible to the naked eye at their intended reading sizes.
    But that's where the subvisible relevance of text type, versus the conscious perception of display type, comes out of the woodwork.
  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 891
    There’s an important difference between imperceptible and unnoticed. 
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 890
    edited April 30
    @Craig Eliason
    Please explain what that difference is as it relates to Helvetica Now.

    Readers aren't going to notice, spot, perceive, spot, recognize, discern, distinguish the angled ends. Why would the display sizes need to follow though with an aspect that the reader doesn't notice? I'm basing this on the assumption that I won't be able to see the angled ends at their intended size.
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 1,517
    edited April 30
    Readers feel everything. Whether they think they're seeing something or not. Hence the usefulness of the concept of subvisible (versus Beatrice Warde's vapid "invisible").

    Letterforms working under deliberative reading benefit from a "drama" that they do not under immersive reading. However even immersive reading conveys emotion, although mostly through its overall texture.

    To me the reason to nonetheless maintain the consistency is that you don't really know what the inconsistency is doing, so you might as well, not least because people can use any cut at any size.
  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 891
    @Ray Larabie I agree with you. My comment was intended as a rejoinder to Hrant, who I think is mistaking unnoticed aspects of a design (which probably do affect the feeling the reader gets) for invisible aspects (which I think inherently don’t). 
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 890
    @Hrant H. Papazian
    Any typeface with multiple fonts contains variations of some kind. Stem thickness, scender length, width, x-height and more. But a slightly different angle on a stroke end crosses the line? Hairline and Ultra-black: same typeface. Change the angle of the stroke end a bit: now it's a different typeface.


  • SF variations for same letters. By the way, SF has developed based on Helvetica and a couple of typefaces too in my opinion.

  • edited April 30
    Your article is a bit confusing. You conflate a new font family (Helvetica Now) and a font+software solution (SF). Apple makes iOS and macOS, and had built some font switching for the SF fonts into the operating system. The SF fonts outside the Apple systems don’t perform these neat things. Well, it's not entirely true, because the SF fonts are at least partially variable, and have size-dependent tracking built in, which works only on Apple devices and does indeed increase legibility.
    I knew and mentioned in my article. SF works only in Apple habitat. I think we need a similar approach for OS platforms, with automatic text-display switching and additional functionality like SF.

    Also, we need a guideline for better screen performance:
    Without useful contents, guidelines, Helvetica Now is useless or the same thing will happen. Designer-developer will use the wrong typeface for the improper purpose. Because there are many screens, many resolutions, and many situations. So if you want to write a code for Helvetica now, it will be very long. (because you have to give a connection for 2-3 different variations at least for proper legibility)

    It uses Helvetica as a name, but it looks like a new typeface:
    I think with alternate variations and different forms for small sizes, Helvetica Now became a new typeface. But of course, I totally understand the reason. We're talking and writing about it because of its name, not design.





  • > Is it a design error or not?

    Yes it is. For me the whole typeface is an error.
    Has always been.
    Sorry to spoil the party.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,420
    edited April 30
    The pertinent issue with the terminals of/e and /c at display size is not so much the look of the counters and apertures in the individual letters, but the effect created when those letters are followed by /s.

    The general consensus seems to be that the adjacent terminals of /e and /s (a frequent combination in many languages) should align, but that with c_s it’s more important to make sure that the aperture of /c is not too large, and that the combination of counters does not make too obvious a “super-counter” across the two letters. Neue Helvetica:

    As an aside, and relevant to the overall “weight” of counter spaces, we note that /c is narrower than /e in many typefaces, notably Univers, and not merely a crossbar-less version of that glyph.


  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 1,517
    edited April 30
    Any typeface with multiple fonts contains variations of some kind.
    It's interesting to consider which parameters –and pushed how far– cause a typeface to drift too far from its essence. For example to me a Baskerville with a very large x-height isn't one. Does weight alter the character? Indeed it must, but I think it's qualitatively less structural than terminal style, and certainly fluidity/rigidity (see below).

    Also relevant is necessity: what positives does changing the terminal angle style bring, versus the obvious functional usefulness of weight variance? Greater aperture in small sizes? Just keep it flat and slightly increase the aperture, which would keep it closer to the spirit. It really seems like a misguided affectation. Although as Andreas opines that might fit just fine with Helvetica overall...  :-)

    @Mehmet Yakut
    Frankly SF is more severely inconsistent: the flat sides of the Compact deviate it far more than terminal angle. The Compact Display being even internally inconsistent there.
  • edited April 30



    Nick Shinn
    Here is "e and s," for both typeface Helvetica Now and SF.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 425
    edited April 30
    Readers feel everything. Whether they think they're seeing something or not. Hence the usefulness of the concept of subvisible (versus Beatrice Warde's vapid "invisible").
    While I'm sure there can exist stimuli so small that they truly cannot be percieved, and thus have no effect on viewers even at the subconscious level, it certainly is true that readers feel much that they do not consciously notice.

    In fact, I encountered an example of this myself recently.

    In looking at material typeset by the ATF Typesetter, an early phototypesetter constructed around a Friden Justowriter, specifically the version which used a seven-unit system, I noticed:

    Unlike a five-unit IBM Executive typewriter, here the proportional spacing is such that nothing looks "wrong" with the characters, they seem to be, as far as one can tell, normal typeset characters...

    but the result, in the mass, still appears to be of inferior quality to normal typesetting, although one can't put one's finger on why.

    As to the original topic: going from flat to angled terminations to create more openness in smaller sizes may be necessary, though it does seem like a change to the typeface. Also, Univers, which is much more successful, in my opinion, as a text typeface than Helvetica, has flat terminations.

    But whether that is a mistake or a daring choice depends on how well Helvetica Now works as a text face. There are big differences between Bodoni and Bodoni Book. Palatino and Aldus even have different names, although Aldus should really just have been called Palatino Book. So for Helvetica Now Text to be a new and different typeface... is, in my opinion, perfectly acceptable.

    > Is it a design error or not?

    Yes it is. For me the whole typeface is an error.
    Has always been.
    Sorry to spoil the party.
    Helvetica... has always been good for at least one thing. In its medium weight, it made for very nice modern-looking signs in places like airports.

    This is one more thing than most typefaces have been superlatively good at, and so even if it is worse than useless for any other purpose, it would still not be an error.
  • Maybe they can address these issues in Helvetica Later, the next release after Helvetica Now.
  • Christian ThalmannChristian Thalmann Posts: 1,380
    Maybe they can address these issues in Helvetica Later, the next release after Helvetica Now.
    Helvetica Actually.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,147
    They should just mush all the too many versions together as one and call it, "Helvetica Enough Already."
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 425
    They should just mush all the too many versions together as one and call it, "Helvetica Enough Already."

    Initilly, I saw that, and thought, would I strongly disagree with it, given that I defended Helvetica against the criticism of Andreas Stötzner?

    But while I might not make the same specific recommendation, I find I do not disagree with the sentiment behind this post. I think that the original Helvetica is beautiful and deservedly popular.

    While tweaking Helvetica to work better with new technologies may have its place, attempting to captialize on its popularity by using it as a basis for typefaces to serve a wider range of purposes, which is what seems to be being attempted here, is, I fully agree, an entirely dubious enterprise. (It would be slightly less dubious if done, say, to Unica, but I wouldn't approve of that either.)

    I mean, what's next? Perhaps a Clarendonized version of Times Roman, intended to displace Helvetica's uses as a display typeface?


  • Dan ReynoldsDan Reynolds Posts: 127
    edited May 1
    I am surprised that no one has mentioned this so far:

    In the original metal fonts of Neue Haas-Grotesk, some of the terminals are not flat, but instead have a slight angle. I have seen this on several specimens, but I alas do not have any real Haas specimens here at home that I can scan and post here. If you look at pages 34 and 35 from Helvetica forever: Story of a Typeface, you’ll see this phenomenon on at least two sizes of the a that are shown on that spread (one big one, one smaller one). I have seen this elsewhere on the e. This wasn’t done much. Certainly not in every letter on it every size. I assume it was to open up certain counters at certain sizes a very tiny bit. But I think it is helpful to remind us that practice is never as dogmatic was theory wants it to be.

    I think that the understanding of Helvetica today is that its terminals are always flat (like they are in Univers), so maybe a digital Helvetica bringing this feature back could be viewed as being not the right decision, because of practitioners in the industry’s current perceptions … here I mean users, more than type designers (although Christian’s digital Neue Haas-Grotesk, which is a masterpiece of craftsmanship and design, didn’t give the terminals any angles, for instance). But a mistake? Putting angles on those terminals is not a mistake on the part of Monotype’s designers. Not in any way.
  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 891
    Orthogonal terminals are often cited as a distinguishing feature of Neo-Grotesques as a typeface classification—maybe the distinguishing feature. So it may be that our desire to have a coherent taxonomy is driving some of our blindness or resistance to those angles. 
  • edited May 1
    Have you seen the Helvetica documentary? In the Helvetica Documentary, Mathew Carter says that "The whole structure is based on this horizontal slicing off of the terminals. It's very hard for a designer to look at these characters and say, how would I improve them? How would I make them any different? They just seem to be exactly right." 

  • Florian HardwigFlorian Hardwig Posts: 162
    edited May 1
    Here’s another neo-grotesque that happens to come in three optical sizes named Display, Text, and Micro. It’s Halyard by Darden Studio (2017).

    Halyard Display has some orthogonal terminals (in the caps, in a), but angled ones in lowercase characters like e or s. In Halyard Text and Micro, all apertures are more open, with diagonal stroke endings.

  • edited May 1
    If we find more examples, can we say that "it seems right" Also another problem, 's' and 'c' have not angled terminals in "Helvetica Now Text" but 'e' has angled one. I'm talking about similar letters should be connected visually (in Helvetica Now Text, not all of them). And in Helvetica Now Mini, All of them have angled terminals. 
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 1,517
    edited May 1
    I am surprised that no one has mentioned this so far:

    In the original metal fonts of Neue Haas-Grotesk, some of the terminals are not flat, but instead have a slight angle.
    Hopefully that's not due to ignorance, but not ignoring that design is for the living, who have pretty much never seen metal NHG, much less have had their perceptions formed by it.
    practice is never as dogmatic [as] theory wants it to be.
    True. To me good theory remains the only way forward, the only way to be free of historicism for its own sake.
    I think that the understanding of Helvetica today is that its terminals are always flat (like they are in Univers), so maybe a digital Helvetica bringing this feature back could be viewed as being not the right decision, because of practitioners in the industry’s current perceptions … here I mean users, more than type designers (although Christian’s digital Neue Haas-Grotesk, which is a masterpiece of craftsmanship and design, didn’t give the terminals any angles, for instance). But a mistake? Putting angles on those terminals is not a mistake on the part of Monotype’s designers. Not in any way.
    I think the main question here isn't whether the terminals should be flat or angled, but the role of terminal inconsistency between the various cuts of one incarnation of the typeface. This might very well be a mistake here (as I for one believe). BTW flat terminals might be one important feature of NeoGrots, but I wouldn't say it's critical. (Not that I'm a fan of sticking to categorization...)

    Just because users are not explicitly complaining (as designers are wont to do with little reason but their personal preferences, as Craig alluded to) does not mean they're not hindered.
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