“A new chapter in the illustrious Helvetica story”: Monotype introduces the Helvetica Now Variable font
Building on its update to Helvetica in 2019, Monotype’s variable edition is built with 21st Century designers in mind.
- Lucy Bourton
- 16 July 2021
Monotype has announced a new variable offering of Helvetica, described to maintain its classic simplicity but with added “flexibility, expression and digital expression”
This variable edition, Helvetica Now Variable, is built on its release of Helvetica Now in 2019. At the time, the update reimagined the font’s “clarity, simplicity and neutrality of classic Helvetica with 21st Century design needs,” from optical sizing to an extended character set. “The incredibly positive reception to Helvetica Now makes us proud to build upon this time-tested design even further,” says Charles Nix, Monotype’s creative type director. “This font gives designers the firepower they need – from greater creative freedom to typographic expression – to produce exquisitely fine-tuned typography and expressive, animated headlines.”
In turn, Helvetica Now Variable is an update with contemporary digital designers in mind, who can now “blend Helvetica Now’s weights (hairline to extra black), optical sizes (four-point to infinity) and new compressed and condensed widths to create infinite shades of expression, incredible typographic animations, and ultra-refined typography,” explains a press release introducing the font.
Dually developed off the back of the huge “wave of interest” in variable fonts, Helvetica Now Variable is designed with “a digital-first future” in mind. For example, where previous font formats would require a style within a family to live in a separate file, the font “bundles the necessary DNA for every style into one tidy package,” explains Monotype. “This allows designers to move through the entire sequence – mixing, matching and custom creating millions of variations on the family theme – seamlessly through one file that is a fraction of the size of the combined static fonts.” Additionally, the font has an extensive width axis for designers needing to communicate necessary information into smaller spaces, “like with responsive design for the web, small smartwatch screens, or packaging micro-type like ingredient lists.”
Friedrich Althausen, a type designer at Monotype, adds: “Of course, it was an honour to work on the classic Helvetica family, but it was also challenging. Making a variable font with three axes, nine master drawings, compatible outline nodes, and clean interpolations is no small feat.” Created by a team of experienced type designers and font engineers, Friedrich explains a key task was “translating the spirit of the original design to a cutting-edge, digital font format... From the tail of the small ‘a’ to rarely-used reference marks, we discussed every detail, corrected, and tested extensively. The result is an amazing modern design tool and a new chapter in the illustrious Helvetica story.” And as Charles Nix adds: “Moreover, it’s just plain fun, with the potential to bring the good news of variable fonts to the masses. Helvetica Now Variable is everything Helvetica should be today.”
Monotype: Helvetica Now Variable (Copyright © Monotype, 2021)
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.