food for selfish thought

food for selfish thought:

biased observations that you may not agree with

hel? no

IBM is trying to make a "new Helvetica" and it's awful. 

I suppose that if imitation is a sincere form of flattery, then the pedestal that IBM puts Helvetica on to try and dethrone it is admirable. But clearly, this isn't about them admiring Helvetica. If you read this article by Fast Company, never once does it say something nice about the "old" typeface. Whether or not they actually are, this article paints these guys as incredibly pretentious in the way they are set about "redefining" Helvetica. 


Take for instance this line by the typeface—IBM Plex—designer: "Helvetica is a child of a particular sect of modernist thinking that's gone today." Helvetica was a type revolution for the modernist movement, certainly. But I can't stress enough that it isn't about anything. It's designed to express no feelings, to be plain. There doesn't need to be anything so lofty as some worldly manner of thought to make Helvetica relevant. How ignorant to posit something akin to calling New York's subway system navigation design irrelevant in today's world. 

Now, let's move on to the actual type itself. There is no way something so clearly humanist will ever be considered a "new Helvetica" by anyone with a design background and not working at IBM. It has disgustingly arbitrary-looking curves pulled in areas (just look at the crossbar on that lowercase t). They are just trying way too hard to force the idea of human and machine coalescing for this typeface to be a new Helvetica.


Does it work for IBM? I'd give that a definite maybe. As I aggressively pointed out above, it certainly fits their brand's identity. Even the idea of making eight weights in a nod to the logo's eight bars is cute—until they change their logo and that shallow idea loses all meaning.

Do I like the type? Clearly not. Will I tip my hat to their movement towards creating the company's first bespoke typeface? Absolutely. Is this typeface, as the designer so boldly claims, "the new Helvetica"? No chance in hel.  

Wade Burton