typophile.com, helvetica & fascism

without wanting to stir up this debate (i mean that genuinely, and i won't respond to attempts to drag any discussion in that direction):

without access to typophile's archives i can't remember when the all the arguments on the site about whether helvetica is an inherently fascist typeface happened. the best i can guess is that some of them were in 2010 as a reaction to arguments elsewhere in the blogosphere/social media about the origin of the star wars logo. but perhaps there was another thread, in 2007, in reaction to paula scher's comments in gary hustwit's helvetica? can anyone confirm or correct this?

in case you're curious, this is all for background in a piece i'm writing on modernist typography in germany under the nazi regime. not planning on mentioning any names—just looking for a year, maybe even months.


  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,406
    edited January 2016
    Purely from the singular perspective of an old coot, I would say that the Nazi tag is unfounded and accused way after the fact.  AG was certainly in use at the time of the 3rd Reich but not by any means a branding face. Helvetica came out in about 1957, well after the War was over.  Helvetica, as the name suggests, is a reflection of Swiss type.  Even AG, which was highly used by the Ulm School people, was seen as too left wing for the Nazis who thought the Ulm founders were communists. Fractur was much more in association with the Reich but not limited to it. To say, "Swiss Style", "International Style" or "Corporate Style" would be fair.
    As I recall, during Gary's presentation at TypeCon in 2007, he may have made the reference that some people might have made the assumption but I don't recall it being a widely accepted reference.

    Also, many of the Typophile dialogues were more impassioned than informed. It might be a fun anthropological study to revisit the Typophile threads but...
  • Here's a Typographica discussion from 2005 that touches on the Star Wars logo/Helvetica connection, including comments from Suzy Rice, designer of the Star Wars logo: http://typographica.org/on-typography/may-the-type-be-with-you/

    More from Suzy Rice about it here: http://suzyrice.com/the-star-wars-logo-design-page-one-of-two/
  • chris, you may have misunderstood what i'm up to, but that may be my fault. i'm only trying to set some contemporary context for how we approach the story of modernist type under the nazis. the debates over helvetica are important to me in this project only insofar as people were willing to engage in them, saying something about the way many are willing to debate the stakes of design judgment—uncritically assuming/accepting that form can have direct (even inherent) political meaning.

    mark, thanks—that first link reference is five years before when the later argument over the star wars/helvetica/fascism connection erupted. but it shows why the topic could have been on people's minds already.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,406
    ...debates over helvetica are important to me in this project only insofar as people were willing to engage in them...
    Now I get it, sorry.
  • Stephen ColesStephen Coles Posts: 938
    edited January 2016
    No “Fascism”, but Helvetica, Scher, and Socialism are mentioned in this thread. (Found using Duck Duck Go, which seems to retain more of the previously live Typophile pages than Google does. At least for now…)
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,406
    Socialism seems to make more sense than fascism.  Good "Ducking", Stewf ;-)

  • Have you tried using wayback machine?
  • stephen, that's a thread i'd totally forgotten. maybe its own topic for a future essay. thanks! (fernando, the answer is yes—stephen's link actually takes me to wayback.)
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,210
    In the 1998 book Paul Renner: The Art of Typography by Christoper Burke is about Futura, but there's some interesting writing about the relationship between Nazis and sans-serif typefaces.
  • @Fernando Díaz Unfortunately the Wayback Machine doesn't yet have a search function, (though they’re working on it!) so you need to know what URL you’re looking for first. That’s why you gotta have a search engine that has cached the site’s pages.
  • SiDanielsSiDaniels Posts: 277
    Maurice, have you contacted the Punchcut folks? They might have an internal copy of the archive that would allow them to confirm the dates for your article.
  • si, that's a good idea. for this piece, knowing the years is good enough—it's really a glorified parenthetical remark i'm making; it may not even make it past editing. but if i come back to the topic the punchcutters would probably be a big help. (and who knows—maybe by then they'll have the site up and running with archives again.)
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