"Helvetica Now" - "Monotype redesigns Helvetica for the digital age"

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  • ValKalinicValKalinic Posts: 31
    edited April 9
    The name Helvetica Now reminded me of this Spaceballs dialogue:
    Colonel: Everything that happens now is happening now. 
    Dark Helm.: What hapened to then? 
    Colonel: We passed then. 
    Dark Helm.: When? 
    Colonel: Just now. We're at now now.
    Dark Helm.: Go back to then. 
    Colonel: When? 
    Dark Helm.: Now! 
    Colonel: Now? 
    Dark Helm.: Now! 
    Colonel: I can't. 
    Dark Helm.: Why? 
    Colonel: We missed it. 
  • Rob BarbaRob Barba Posts: 41
    The font looks nice but the name, IMO, is pure hipster bait.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 465
    edited April 9
    Looking at the link, I couldn't see the difference between Helvetica Now and the original Helvetica. But I was able to find out that Helvetica Now is recent, and intended as a successor to Helvetica Neue, which I had thought was such a change from the original Helvetica to be in effect a different typeface.

    So now I guess I will have to take a detailed look at specimens of the three of them to figure out what differences there are.

    Having taken a look...

    Helvetica Neue looks to me to be ever so slightly like Venus, and Helvetica Now, which is supposed to be simply a tidying-up of the original, clearing up minor flaws evident on newer printing processes or when it is used digitally, looks, very slightly, like it's been moved towards Franklin Gothic. (It doesn't seem at all to have been built on Helvetica Neue, instead it goes back to the original, it seems to me.) But I could just be imagining things.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,449
    Size-specific fonts—so very digital!

    BTW, both Europa Grotesk and Neue Haas Grotesk, which are of course Helveticas in all but name, already have that feature. The Neue Haas has an alternate /R too.



  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 922
    edited April 10
    I'm surprised at the minimal language coverage for such a high profile release in 2019. You can see the glyph set here. No Vietnamese, Greek, Cyrillic...minimal currency symbols. Yet it includes several deprecated characters, Esperanto and good ole Aringacute. But I like all the numeral variants and arrows. I love the new fractions, especially in the micro styles.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 465
    edited April 10
    Europa Grotesk and Neue Haas Grotesk, which are of course Helveticas in all but name,
    Oh, really? Then why don't they have Akzidenz in the name, at least? I hadn't been keeping track; I knew there were imitations of Helvetica, but I didn't realize those were among them.

    Ah, silly me. Since Helvetica was originally Neue Haas Grotesk, it was a natural name for a clone, at least if it had a partial license... or the trademark was abandoned.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 465
    The name Helvetica Now reminded me of this Spaceballs dialogue:
    That Spaceballs dialogue you quoted - although I enjoyed the movie Spaceballs - reminds me of some other dialogue that was a bit similar, but much better.  A small part of which is

    Costello: Well then, who's on first?
    Abbott: Yes.
    Costello: I mean the fellow's name.
    Abbot: Who.
    Costello: The guy on first.
    Abbot: Who.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,167
    Seems more like a marketing ploy in an attempt to generate "new" funds from an old product.
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 922
    edited April 10
    @Chris Lozos I don't know about that. I imagine if a designer has to deal with a brand that's already invested in Helvetica, this come makes life simpler just on account of having optical size options available. Retconning titling and small text options into an existing Helvetica typefaces would be a mess so it makes sense to call it a new thing...or a now thing. No condensed or compressed? Maybe they'll add these things later.

    Marketing ploy? Well...yeah. It's the most powerful brand name in type and they were essentially letting it wither on the vine with the mainline Helvetica being such a mish-mash of good and bad. Helvetica Neue was more of a display spin-off while this feels more like it's intended to be a proper sequel.
  • Divest.
  • Christian ThalmannChristian Thalmann Posts: 1,426
    edited April 10
    That website seems to actively avoid showing what Now looks like, hiding it behind distortions and clippings. Some old/new glyph overlays would have been nice, and a comparison of the same copy in the three different optical sizes.

    I guess they might have been afraid of people saying «it looks just like the old Helvetica».
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 465
    edited April 10
    Reading the text of Monotype's site on the typeface, though, indicates it was intended to look just like the old Helvetica, except... to offer more weights, and to look better on digital devices.

    Wait a moment... since Monotype owns this typeface, does that mean that it can license it to Microsoft, and have it replace Arial? After all, Arial is derived from Monotype Grotesque, which Microsoft bought from Monotype because it was not the owner of Helvetica. (It was metric-compatible with Helvetica, so people could print on an HP laser printer that had Helvetica without having to buy another copy for their computer. I don't view this as any kind of font piracy.)

    Come to think of it, since Agfa owns Monotype now, unless they've also swallowed up Haas so that they do have the rights to the Helvetica trademark - unlike typeface designs, which have, what, 16-year protection in Europe, trademarks are forever - maybe they should call it Triumvirate Now.

    If I remember correctly, though, due to mergers and acquisitions, while there are plenty of independent font creators in this digital age, the traditional large typefoundries have been acquired so as to form a duopoly, not a monopoly. So it isn't like the situation with regard to board games, where one company (Hasbro) owns the games that used to belong to Milton-Bradley, Parker Brothers, Wizards of the Coast, Avalon Hill, Simulations Publications Incorporated, Tactical Studies Rules... and probably any other major game publisher you can remember, at least from the 70s or before - even though, new companies spring up despite board games "dying" in the digital era, so we have Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride from independents. (The company making the latter did get acquired, but by a French company, not by Hasbro.)
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,679
    Agfa hasn't owned Monotype since ~ 16 years ago. They only owned it from 1999 to late 2004. But Monotype bought Linotype in 2006, which at some point previously had bought Stempel, who owned Haas, who owned Helvetica. (Although Helvetica had been licensed directly to Linotype from very early on.)

    Leastways, that’s my understanding. Complicated stuff.

    (I once did a visual timeline showing Hasbro’s takeover of the board game world, btw.)
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 465
    edited April 10
    Ah. So Monotype can call it Helvetica Now. As for CG Triumvirate, apparently Agfa has now cleansed itself of font piracy, and has left that typeface in Monotype's hands after divesting itself of Monotype.

    And Asmodee doesn't just own Ticket to Ride, it also owns Settlers of Catan - a consolidation of newer board-game companies has also taken place.
  • That website seems to actively avoid showing what Now looks like
    To be fair, I've looked it up on MyFonts and rather like the new text and caption cuts.
  • Simon CozensSimon Cozens Posts: 357
    April F... oh, it isn’t.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 465
    edited April 10
    April F... oh, it isn’t.
    Before I had clicked on the link, I entertained hopes that it might have just been an April Fool's Day joke too. Not that there's really anything wrong with tweaking a very popular typeface for today's digial uses, but still...

    I'm surprised at the minimal language coverage for such a high profile release in 2019. You can see the glyph set here. No Vietnamese, Greek, Cyrillic...minimal currency symbols. Yet it includes several deprecated characters, Esperanto and good ole Aringacute.
    That is a perceptive comment.

    But while it's a high-profile release, unlike an ordinary high-profile release, closely equivalent typefaces corresponding to it already exist, the original Helvetica and Helvetica Neue. So if running out and buying Helvetica Now to get a typeface that will work better digitally is only going to be a priority for people in the more developed markets, then supporting Vietnamese and Cyrillic wouldn't be necessary.

    Greece is a Western industrialized nation, even if one with a struggling economy. But the Greek lower case is sufficiently different that supporting Greek really involves designing a whole other typeface (or at least it would if there were no Greek support in Helvetica and/or Helvetica Neue to draw from). Whereas Esperanto just involves copying some accent marks to new letters.

    Ah: having checked, I see that there is a typeface by the name of Neue Helvetica World that Monotype Imaging sells, so a legitimate authentic Helvetica with wide language support - Vietnamese and Greek and Cyrillic, yes, but also Thai, Hebrew, Armenian and Georgian - is indeed available.

    Incidentally, when looking for typefaces "similar to Helvetica" on Identifont, not only did Neue Haas Grotesk come up, but so did Neue Haas Unica.

    But I just came across an advertisement, from Monotype Imaging, for Neue Haas Unica. Which said, in big blue letters that filled the page,

    'It's not bloody Helvetica, and it's not another Helvetica.'

    While looking at those letters prompts me to say "You could have fooled me," the design is said to be based on not only Helvetica, but also Akzidenz-Grotesk and Univers. Since Helvetica is said to be not without flaws, with those other two typefaces avoiding those same flaws - Akzidenz-Grotesk has more character; Univers is more suited to body text - that it at least could be a better typeface, if the right things were taken from the other influences, is a possibility.
  • As far as I know Helvetica Neue is still one of the top sellers on Myfonts, FontShop, etc. so Monotype are simply meeting a demand.

    If designers are insistent on using Helvetica in text and small sizes, then an appropriate design to meet that requirement can only be a good thing. And maybe such a high profile release will bring more awareness to the idea of optical sizes.

    That said I still find Christian Schwartz's Neue Haas Grotesk a much more compelling design; it's slightly warmer, more rounded and overall feels more geometric and monoline, which makes all the difference.
  • I guess they might have been afraid of people saying «it looks just like the old Helvetica».
    Subtlety is the hardest thing to sell.
    Monotype are simply meeting a demand.
    If we limit ourselves to meeting popular demand, culture suffers.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,449
    edited April 10
    The fact that the most popular typeface is featuring and promoting the idea of size-specific fonts (in a sans, no less!) is quite significant, is it not? It speaks to the growing sophistication of computer typography, finally catching up with where we were in the 1960s.

    In Mcluhan terms, what was once a tacit quality of the medium (“ground”) becomes a notable feature on the new medium (“figure”)

  • Frode HellandFrode Helland Posts: 130
    This is, of course, a precursor to Helvetica OTVar which will hit the market within the year. Venture capitalists and font producers are not so different.
  • This whole story feels like a deja vu. And it happened multiple times, not just once before. As a design student, when my love for type just had begun to grow, I remember the story of Unica was covered by the German graphic design magazine, “Novum”.
  • Marc OxborrowMarc Oxborrow Posts: 140
    As of this morning, Helvetica Now was not part of SkyFonts, the subscription font plan from MyFonts that consists of their Monotype/Linotype/ITC/FontShop offerings. (But not all of them, apparently.)
  • Usually there's a slight delay before fonts show up on SkyFonts.
  • Marc OxborrowMarc Oxborrow Posts: 140
    Thanks, André. I subscribe to SkyFonts, but use it rather sparingly. Previously, I haven't paid any attention to if/how/when new releases are added to the plan.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,679
    edited April 11

    And Asmodee doesn't just own Ticket to Ride, it also owns Settlers of Catan - a consolidation of newer board-game companies has also taken place.
    There has been consolidation, for sure. But Settlers of Catan is owned by Catan GmbH. Asmodee acquired Mayfair Games in 2016, which had the license for English-language rights to Settlers of Catan. (11 other companies have rights in other markets/languages.) Asmodee was itself acquired by a private equity firm (PAI Partners) last summer.

    (Apologies for topic drift)

  • Thanks, André. I subscribe to SkyFonts, but use it rather sparingly. Previously, I haven't paid any attention to if/how/when new releases are added to the plan.
    I use it primarily to play around with new fonts (or new to me fonts) whenever I’m suffering from writers’ block. It seems to take a week or two for new releases to show up on SkyFonts, which isn't long enough to make sense as a deliberate 'exclusivity' period, so I’m assuming it just takes their sysadmin awhile to add them.
  • Andrew WoodAndrew Wood Posts: 42
    Is adding "now" to your font name the same as adding ".com" to your business name in 1999?

  • André G. IsaakAndré G. Isaak Posts: 435
    edited April 15
    Is adding "now" to your font name the same as adding ".com" to your business name in 1999?

    No. I think that would be “Next”. “Next” is the neue “New” now.

    Where type is concerned, the .com bubble burst the moment “Monotype.com” was rechristened as “Andalé Mono”.
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