If you’re seeking some suggestions for celebrating Helvetica’s 50th birthday, might I recommend a trip to New York’s Museum of Modern Art, which is presenting an exhibition devoted to the typeface? To mark the occasion, the MOMA acquired an original set of 36-point lead Helvetica letterforms. Of course, I don’t need to tell you to fly American Airlines to get there (their fuselage bears the grand imprint of Helvetica, as does and Lufthansa). Those looking to save money might consider renting a Toyota from National, or taking a Greyhound or Amtrak to New York (all of the aforementioned companies use Helvetica in their logos). Once in Manhattan, don’t forget to take a ride on the subway system, whose signage utilizes – you guessed it. And be sure to sip some VitaminWater, shop at American Apparel, and memorialize it all with your Olympus camera (powered with Energizer batteries), since all of these products boast Neue Haas Grotesk, as Helvetica was originally named.
If, by now, you are scratching your head, mumbling about how you thought Helvetica was supposed to be opening for The Killers, don’t feel bad. (And, perhaps more importantly, don’t stop reading this essay.) Helvetica’s lack of name-brand recognition is not your fault. Typography is considered an invisible art, and Helvetica’s ubiquity makes it even easier for it to disappear into the background, overshadowed by the meaning of the words it makes visible.
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