creator of helvetica
max miedinger

The man

Max Miedinger was born on Christmas day, 1910, in Zurich Switzerland.

When he was 16 years old, he became an apprentice typesetter in the book printing office of Jacques Bollmann in Zurich.

After four years of apprenticeship in the book office, Miedinger entered the School of Arts and Crafts, Abendkurse in Zurich.

In 1936, at the age of 26, he became a typographer in the advertising studio of the Globe department store chain. He worked at the Globe for ten years and refined his skill as a typographer.

After ten years at the Globe, he became a representative for the Type Foundry Haas in Basel Switzerland. This is where he would make his mark on graphic arts history, when in 1957 he revised a typeface called Akzidenze Grotesk—an old san serif font designed by the Berthold foundry in the late 1800s. His newly designed san serif was named Neue Haas Grotesk. Little did he know that, in the later 20th century, his neue sans serif typeface would become the default typeface for most software packages under its new name, Helvetica.

Miedinger worked under Edouard Hoffmann to develop the new face for Haas. To his astonishment and consternation, Stempel, the parent company of Haas, changed the name of the face to Helvetica when they decided to market it to businesses in Germany. Miedinger and Hoffmann were bothered by the name’s similarity to the Latin word for Switzerland, Helvetia. But, the name probably had more universal appeal and the world, which was in love with the new Swiss design movement, also fell in love with the typeface.

The end and the beginning

After his time at the Haas Type Foundry, Miedinger was an independent designer. In 1980, Miedinger passed away. Miedinger must have known the impact his redesigned Neue Haas Grotesk had on the world of graphic design, because at the time of his death, Helvetica was well into its reign as the most specified type of the second half of the 20th century. Even today, Helvetica and Times are the most used fonts in desktop publishing and graphic design.

Use Helvetica and be proud

Fifty years of designers cannot be wrong. Use Helvetica yourself on some projects and know that you are not a slacker who doesn’t know how to change the default typeface; you are a designer in the spirit of the Bauhaus refugee Swiss designers who authored an entire design movement. Max Miedinger would be proud.

the man
history of helvetica
ed's history of type
helvetica appreciation
identify helvetica

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