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Neue Haas Grotesk

2004-2010 Originally designed 1957-1961 by Max Miedinger with art direction by Eduard Hoffmann. Released as Neue Haas Grotesk by the Haas'sche Schriftgiesserei, and then revised and released as Helvetica by Linotype AG. Revival originally commissioned in 2004 by Mark Porter at The Guardian. Completed in 2010 for Richard Turley at Bloomberg Businessweek. Thinnest weight designed by Berton Hasebe. Available from Linotype GmbH.

Although my revival of Neue Haas Grotesk didn't make the cut for the The Guardian redesign, primarily because it made the paper look too much like its last broadsheet design, I had planned for years to finish it off. I had a really hard time getting over the fact that sans serif italics (or more precisely corrected obliques) can be incredibly boring to draw, so I used every possible excuse not to finish them. The project finally came back to life when BusinessWeek was set to relaunch as Bloomberg Businessweek and Richard Turley was tapped to become the new creative director. Having worked with the face a bit as part of the Guardian redesign team, Richard was interested in giving it another chance, finally giving me no more excuse not to finish the italics.

Top: Neue Helvetica 95 Black; Bottom: Neue Haas Grotesk 95 Black

Neue Haas Grotesk underwent its first radical transformation when it was refitted to work on Linotype casters, with duplexed Regular and Bold weights. This forced the Bold to redrawn with a considerably narrower proportion. It was transformed again during the transition from metal to phototypesetting, redrawn and rationalized as Neue Helvetica in the 1980s, and was digitized in the earliest days of Postscript type. Much of the warm personality of Miedinger's shapes was lost along the way, so rather than trying to rethink Helvetica or improve on current digital versions, this was more of a restoration project: bringing Miedinger's original Neue Haas Grotesk back to life with as much fidelity to his original shapes and spacing as possible (albeit with the addition of kerning, an expensive luxury in handset type).

Top: Neue Haas Grotesk 65 Medium with alternate R; Bottom: Neue Haas Grotesk 65 Medium with standard R

Miedinger's original Neue Haas Grotesk included a number of interesting alternates, including a cedilla that looked more like a flattened comma (preferred, apparently, by the French speakers among the Swiss Modernists), but the most striking was a straight-legged R, available in each of his handful of original weights by special order only. Impressed by the impact this one small change has on the overall look of the typeface, Richard asked me to make this the default form for Bloomberg Businessweek.

Top: Neue Haas Grotesk 65 Medium with standard lining figures; Bottom: Neue Haas Grotesk 65 Medium with all-caps lining figures

Although my main intent was to preserve Miedinger's original without presuming that I could improve on it, I couldn't resist adding a set of numbers at capital height for uses like British zip codes. The original lining numbers were drawn slightly smaller than the caps in order to look natural when mixed into upper and lowercase text, which looks slightly awkward when mixed directly with the caps.

Top: Neue Haas Grotesk Headline 55 Regular; Bottom: Neue Haas Grotesk Text 55 Regular

Neue Haas Grotesk was originally produced for typesetting by hand in a range of sizes from 5 to 72 (and even larger in the Helvetica Plakat woodtypes that were produced later), but digital Helvetica has always been one-size-fits-all, which leads to unfortunate compromises, not just with the spacing, which was has ended up much looser than Miedinger's wonderfully tight original at display sizes but much too tight for comfortable reading at text sizes, but also with the overall weight (a proper Regular for display looks too light as text, but a proper Medium has the opposite problem) and with details like ink traps, which keep M or W from clogging in text but look awkward and strange in a headline. I decided to avoid these compromises by making two optical sizes, one for display and one for text.

One final special request from Bloomberg Businessweek was an extreme Thin weight, which was drawn beautifully by Berton Hasebe.

Display size in XThin, Thin, Light, Regular, Medium, Bold and Black weights, with italics. Text size in Regular, Semibold and Bold weights, with italics.

Haas and Neue Haas Grotesk are trademarks of Linotype GmbH and are used with permission.