Friday, February 28, 2014 at 5:15PM
Mike Parker joined Mergenthaler Linotype Company company—which would become the world’s leading manufacturer of book and newspaper typesetting equipment—as Design Director in the late 1950s, just a few years after the creation of the Neue Haas Grotesk font. A sans-serif font created by Swiss designers Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffman of the Haas Type Foundry, it was neutral with great clarity and versatile in weight—characteristics which made it perfect for signage and printing. At the time, the font wasn’t designed for use on Mergenthaler Linotype hot metal typesetting machines—the industry-standard machine for printing newspapers, magazines, and posters—so Parker reworked it and added it to Mergenthaler’s library of fonts. While at the company, he added about a thousand others fueling Mergenthaler’s success—not to mention the wide-spread use of the renamed font: Helvetica, Latin for Swiss*. Similarly to Parker’s work adapting Neue Haas Grotesk to Helvetica, digitally-based fonts such as Arial and Bitstream Vera would be based on it—the font many believe to be the best ever created. Thanks to the contributions of the late Mike Parker—designer, type historian, a shepherd of typography including Bitstream all-digital, the font god—clear signage tells us how to get where we want to go and multitudes of digital words read more beautifully.
Check out Mike Parker’s interview in Gary Hustwit’s 2007 documentary about the infamous typeface, Helvetica.