Helvetica, or originally Neue Haas Grotesk, is a Sans Serif typeface and arguably the best font in the world. Although I’m not sure that I agree with this, it is a well designed, beautifully balanced, multi-use face that can be used in a wide range of situations.
What is particularly good about Helvetica is that it is very widely used, across the whole world, by numerous industries, and is it weakened or watered down as a result.
This is of particular note because this is exactly what Haas had in mind when he developed the font in the late 50s. His idea being to design a typeface for which it’s use was of more importance than its appearance or design.
The lower case letters are designed a little taller for clarity at small sizes and the italic form is a simple leaning oblique rather than a fancy design with added visual impact.
The name Helvetica comes from the Latin word for Switzerland and the font has become one of the most widely used in the world, from the L in Chicago to street signs in Vienna.
Many fonts have been developed to be a reflection of Helvetica, with Ariel coming close. Although it is in the detail where the older design of Helvetica sneaks past the newer, computerised rival.
In many cases Helvetica can be considered a ‘go to’ font with a case of ‘if in doubt use it’ being appropriate in this case.