Steve Hicks, the chief digital creative officer at McGarryBowen, wrote a thoughtful essay for Adweek about the way Helvetica — the typeface used by Business Insider and dozens of other brands — will dominate the future in advertising. His theory is that the typeface looks familiar to anyone who has used Facebook, and thus easily welcomes the foreigner, whether in Indiana or Istanbul.
It is true that Helvetica has come to dominate the language of marketing and commerce. We recently pointed out that Avis, Microsoft, Apple and dozens of other brands now all use Helvetica (and variations thereof) for their corporate logos.
But it is not the case, as Hicks argues, that Helvetica dominates because it’s the social media typeface of choice.
Rather, as Stanford University discovered recently — triggering an Helvetica-esque redesign of its own logo — serif fonts with thin stems, and curly risers and descenders, tend to become muddy and indistinct in small digital spaces, like phones and Twitter icons.
Helvetica, by contrast, remains bold and obvious, even in point sizes below 12.
In other words, it’s bold and easy to read for a real, physical reason, not just because it’s trendy.