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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Helvetica vs Cooper in a blowout

Originally uploaded by Spencer E Holtaway.
Helvetica Family vs Cooper Black in a blowout.

Recently I have been noticing a vast increase in the use of Cooper Black as a header typeface in press advertising and - in particular - outdoor advertising media such as bus shelters, billboards and bus sides.

The Helvetica family is a design classic. It's versatility is practically unrivaled, proven by it's uses from poster artwork and large scale media, down to the 6pt terms and conditions you find on practically every piece of print today.

In recent years, the Helvetica family has been used increasingly in the name of Bauhaus throwback fashion (see Franz Ferdinand's album artwork and music videos - the type used may have been from the Swis family, or indeed if even better informed of the Bauhaus, Akzindenz Grotesque ). It went from underground trendy to mass-market trendy, in the same way we have observed 'vintage' clothing rise out of Camden's markets and into the high street (and don't forget about the price increase that came along with this shift).

Cooper Black, on the other hand, has had a sudden and (in my opinion) unexpected rise in popularity. I first noticed it on it's way in when I saw a giant back-lit billboard for E4's launch of the new series of Friends. Since that day, I have been seeing it used for varied products and services.

The strange thing I find about this phenomenon of typefaces sweeping into fashion so quickly, saturating the printed world, and then holding on for many months at a time is that it appears art directors are ignoring the world around them. Advertising is looking rather generic as the same styles are used over and over again, but if it works, why change it? Maybe in the name of progress? While I'm talking about progress, I'd be interested to see how this current trend pans out: will we find a similar typeface that does the same job (like Helvetica and Swis, for example), or will we switch to something completely different?

And the end of the day though, it all depends on what sells, and it looks like Cooper Black sells (but could it sell those ponchos that were all the rage a year ago now?). But will Cooper Black suffer the way Comic Sans did after it's massive popularity growth in the early 1990's when it became tacky through over-use? Let's not forget we can find Cooper Black on the front of classic British cafes that haven't been redecorated for decades, and on the side of plumber's vans.

I think I've learned I don't really have any view on this, except I think it's a bit strange. If you can see a point in here, let me know.

Finally, I think MonoType's Baskerville, and illustrated variations of MonoType Baskerville are the next big thing, so put that in your mug of sparrowhawks and massage it.


Zohar (graphics geek) said...

Nice things you wrote here. I will look around more carefully.
Me myself am tired of the san font range and would like to see some more serifs... trying to push my ways with Garamond, but some people think that its a bit hard - too corporate. I hate it when they call it "Times New Roman". I say, take a mgnifying glass, it's totaly different!!!

Spencer E Holtaway said...

Go for Baskerville. It's the best typeface ever made in my opinion.

Garamond is kinda hard and corporate (look at Apple back in the day), but much more pleasant in comparison to TNR.

Cheers buddy.

jakester said...

Update please!

Spencer E Holtaway said...

Sorry Jakey, no interweb at home as of now. I need to put together some stuff on this subject, among other things and will publish sometime next week hopefully.