New Helvetica Neue


Helvetica Deflo by Meredith Agerton-Diebold
Meredith blew up balloons spray-painted the letterforms using stencils and then deflated the balloon, scanned them in, and then image traced them.

Adventitious by Kailyn Dollar
Kailyn made tracings of the letterform and then took crayons and a blow dryer and heated them up until the melted and started to spread over the letterform.

Graffitica by Jake Dugard
As a demonstration, I decided to participate in this project. I created stencils for the letterforms, spray-painted them, and then scanned them in while moving the letters making these warped, textured letterforms.

Font Tuesday by Sarah Birdsall
Sarah layered images of the letterforms making interesting dimensional letters using ink, light, and Mardi Gras beads.

Cottoned by Camille Lewis
Camille used cotton swabs and light to create these textured letterforms.

Duration: 2 weeks
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Bookmark Project

Project Brief

Helvetica is one of the most ubiquitous typefaces. First developed by Max Miedinger (and Eduard Hoffmann) in 1957. There have been numerous iterations of this typeface including an improved set called Helvetica Neue where adjustments were made to enhance legibility and cohesiveness. Because of Helvetica’s success, there have also been countless derivative typefaces produced that try to capture the qualities of the typeface. Others have used Helvetica as a starting point to create more expressive variations.

In Yale Architecture’s Constructs publication, David Reinfurt and Joe Pirret started a project called Helvetica Neue R where headlines were set in variations of Helvetica Neue. These variations were to “emphasize different modes of production...including low resolution bitmapping, machine translation, 3-D characters, preview mode from Adobe Illustrator, and various network communications like GPS, Palm Pilot interface, and scripting languages.” (via)

Make a new weight of Helvetica Neue that is not simply a bold or italic, extended or condensed. Your weight should add to, complicate, or personalize Helvetica in some way. Create at least one version of each letter in the alphabet, but it doesn’t have to necessarily be all caps or all lowercase. You must use both analog (x-acto, pen, tape, etc.) and digital (laptop, camera, phone, software, etc.) tools in some way. After you create your typeface, create a specimen poster for it.

* This assignment was influenced by an assignment by Rob Giampietro.

Learning Objectives

— Derive new work from an existing design
— Implement both analog and digital processes
— Explore different means of working and how technology affects outcome
— Learn the anatomy of a typeface
— Learn how to use a large format printer
— Explore the meanings of legibility and readability


One 24x36" type specimen poster


I was happy with the results. Each of the students attacked this project with no fear. They all implemented different materials and processes that led to individually interesting results. The nature of this class was to keep things fast and loose—making sure to encourage the students to not get stuck with overthinking or trying to make something perfect. The goal was for them to explore while making—not map it out and then go. 

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