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Neue Haas Grotesk (2011) (fontbureau.com)
174 points by frutiger on Sept 26, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 55 comments

A labour of love, I think, rather than extreme functionality (compared to the surely-hundreds of alternative Helveticas).

Reminded me of an element of Helvetica that bugs me (that different versions / boldness mitigate but this one has, definitely) is that capital letters look a little bolder than lower case. Just a fraction. But noticeable.

Almost that effect when you need small caps, by dropping the font size. Not that garish, but doesn't quite look right to me. Anyone else?

No, you're absolutely right.

The documentary "Helvetica" is worth watching if you're into typography: https://documentaryheaven.com/helvetica/

Worth noting that Monotype's version of NHG, which IIRC was produced in partnership with Font Bureau and is identical to the linked specimen, is available via Adobe Fonts (né TypeKit), and so to anyone with a Creative Cloud subscription. This makes it somewhat more accessible than similar grotesques, and you'll see it in many places if you're looking.

Ok guys, how do I get “into” this?

I can respect the impact that the right typography has on a document or graphic design

But actually evaluating and synthesizing outcomes based on what I know about font families and specific nuance of letter formation is foreign to me

And every comment on this thread reads like satire to me

I’m really sitting here like “who cares”, like always when it comes to font and typography discussion. But I at least want to know how the rest of you all got here. Where to start?

I’m a little beyond “I dont know why I like this logo/site” but quite a bit before “Ah yes, obliques! Touch me, Senpai~”

There are a lot of different things to be interested in. At one end visual/graphic design is interesting because, like engineering, it's seeking optimum performance among constraints. Neue Hass Grotesk might technically "outperform" other specific fonts in specific contexts, enabling you to find, say, a restroom at the airport faster and with less effort than if the sign were in Fraktur.

On another end of it, there's the recognition that what often starts off as efficient or economical in one context will form a cultural symbiosis with that context, carrying it around for decades or centuries to follow. That's why Cooper Black might remind you of cheerful commercialism from the 70s, but it also explains how seeing Eurostyle on a fried chicken menu will give you a very specific idea about how much you'll be paying and what the condiments will be like.

In between, there's "crazy lizard brain stuff" like the Bouba/kiki effect: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bouba/kiki_effect

Typography, and more broadly design, have a big impact on the way you perceive things. The rabbit hole is endless, but I recommend three entry points:

- The Design Trilogy of films, made up of Helvetica, Objectified, and Urbanized.


- The book Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell

- The 101 Things I Learned In... series. There isn't one for typography, unfortunately, but the Fashion, Urban Design, Architecture, and Product Design books cover similar territories.

I suggest “The Elements of Typographic Style” by Robert Bringhurst. Already the first 5 pages come with a quick guide to typographic elements and history that made me fascinated.

This is the book, can't recommend it high enough. It works for those who are just looking for the intro and those who are knee-deep in the subject already.

An absolutely fantastic read and a pleasure to look at. Also, some editions use Touche paper for the cover, so it got a very nice feel to it too :)

My entrypoint was "Thinking with Type" from Ellen Lupton which gives a very nice and broad introduction to typography. Highly recommend it

I also discovered https://practicaltypography.com/ in a HN commment a few years back, it's brilliant and may give you a quicker start.

There aren’t only the functional aspects to consider when choosing a typeface: the cultural and formal aspects are also pertinent for the (hopefully erudite and passionate) designer.

Does the font originate from the beginning of the previous century? Is it an Italian or an American design? Is it a new edition or a redesign of a classic version? Is the historical context of the font relevant to the meaning of the text? Sometimes it may be just a formal choice: a particular glyph has an interesting, funny or pointy shape and this could help setting the mood of the text.

The questions is: what characteristics can be expressed with the choice of a particular typeface? Of course for the reader the contents of the text can be accessed without knowing any of these details, but there are more layers of information (and beauty) available.

I’m absolutely no expert in font matters but for me the interest started by reading the history of design and its actors: the Trajan's Column, Gutenberg, Bodoni, the industrial revolution, mechanical typesetting, OCR, PostScript, etc. History is also marked by how text is represented and reproduced.

Bringhurst has already been mentioned, but before that what helped me was to learn the vocabulary. Knowing what Spur and Spine are, being able to distinguish between Counter and Eye, having an idea about Humanist and Rational, etc. The point is not so much the terms but learning their meaning makes you see a world you didn't see before. It will even be impossible to "unsee" it once you have it. It will help you to understand a lot of typography talk and help to distinguish between serious arguments and the nonsense talk, which undoubtedly is prevalent in design discussion.

My school in this regard was the early fontblog.de, but this was 15 years ago and I couldn't find a good example in their archive. It was all in German anyways, so not so helpful for most here. A more recent resource is maybe Stephen Coles' "The Anatomy of Type" which gives a compact overview of the important terms, has tons of examples and a good introduction to a basic set of standard typefaces.

Wow, the obliques are a big improvement. Gotta love the alternate R for people (like me) who thought Helvetica's little wiggle seemed out of place.

The spur on the uppercase G always felt out of place in my view. It's a shame they didn't clean that up while they were at it.

Did you mean: Arial

If that didn’t adequately convey my disgust at your suggestions, let this addendum make my feelings towards your “clean up” crystal clear.

I'm more talking about something like Helvetica Now but with some of the alternative characters that are already included with the font enabled by default.

The history page is the most interesting one. I finally learnt the emitology of Helvetica:

> The name “Neue Haas Grotesk” was deemed less than ideal for an international Linotype market though. Heinz Eul, sales manager at Stempel, suggested “Helvetia”, which is Latin for “Switzerland”, but Hoffmann was not convinced, especially since a sewing machine manufacturer and insurance company already carried the name. He instead suggested “Helvetica” – “the Swiss”.


Neue Haas Grotesk has been around for at least a decade - why now on HN?

Yes, can this have a (2011) added to the title?

(That's the copyright on the footer of the page, anyways.)

I thought this was some new announcement at first glance.

Ok, added. Thanks.

10 years isn’t that long, I’m sure it’s still new to a lot of people

According to the history on the website it's been around since the '50s.

I came across it for the first time earlier this year and used it on a project. I really like it, but lack the vocabulary to explain why.

It’s a re-tracing of the original Helvetica plates. That effort itself is very recent, so as far as digital type goes, it’s very new.

I was wondering the same. I am familiar with it because we use NHG as our company font, but didn’t know that it was widely known.

It’s just newer take on Akzidenz-Grotesk (1898).


Seeing the slight but significant changes from the previous digitizations this typeface feels a much more honest homage to the original print-press Neue Haas Grotesk.

Seen so many variants of Helvetica over the years and this has stood through time as one of the better versions of it.

We use Neue Haas Grotesk for our design system. and I never knew it had such a history behind it. TIL! Don't know how to say this articulately but I've always thought of it as Helvetica's beatnik cousin.

One of my favorite fonts. I loved the way they used it in Destiny 2's UI.

It was also used in the game "Remember Me" (2013)

Well, since they didnt bother to actually link the damn thing, here it is:


I would be careful though, look like they have a copyright warning, and a tracking GIF

You'd need a web license to use this legally.

Was the double a (“aa”) intentional?

If you mean in the red text, yes. Those are two different variants of the same character.

Aaah, now I see it, thanks!

TIL that fonts can include alternates. Now I wonder...are there some underlying principles used to design the font that don’t determine which “a” or “R” to include alone?

I read recently on Wikipedia (so you know this is good legal advice) that typefaces are not copyrightable. Is there an open version of this?

While the letterforms themselves are not copyrightable, as I understand it, the digital representation is copyrightable. This digitation of Neue Haas Grotesk would then be under copyright. Retracing Neue Haas Grotesk to create a free alternative would be a monumental undertaking, especially at such high quality. It took Christian Schwartz 6 years to digitize Neue Haas Grotesk.

Typography is a lot of work. Support the type designers and pay for their work.

Ah ha, interesting, thank you. Cool, maybe one day I'll scan an original and have it auto-vectorified for less discerning folks like me.

I don't think I'm ever going to pay for it, to be honest. And besides, it isn't open and so I don't want it anyway.

Lots of things are hard. But I block ads and get them for free anyway.

Why not just use one of the excellent free grotesque fonts instead? Some examples:




Thank you. Much appreciated!

Neue Haas Grotesk was revived to restore the small details lost from Helvetica, so if you aren't very particular you may as well use the easily-available Helvetica. There's plenty of more interesting typefaces than Neue Haas Grotesk or Helvetica though.

I actually think I shall. Thank you.

Couldn’t you have a program to print the font to a big PDF and then re-ingest it?

PDF files embed the vectors outlines for the letters used in the text and it's trivial to extract those into a font file. However, as the mathematical representation of the typeface is under copyright, this conversion does not make it free because the vector curves remain the same. The process would also likely lose the fine tuning of a professional typeface like the kerning, so it would not be desirable anyways.

What about printing it into a static image and then extracting the curves?

In Photoshop:

Make text

Rasterize text later

Select layer pixels

Use the tool that vectorizes pixel selections, it’s in the bottom of the vector layers panel

Open vectors in Illustrator

This won’t generate as clean of paths as a person would, though.

My go-to sans-serif font is always Inter (https://rsms.me/inter/), which feels similar enough.

Inter is and feels much more similar to SF Pro than Helvetica (rounding, the R, dots on lowercase I, design for screen vs. print). That said, they're both great fonts.

Inter is San Francisco without the clean 90° aligned terminals and slightly stranger proportions. It’s like Arial is to Helvetica.

My favorite sans-serif font is Meta by Erik Spiekermann which is described as the anthesis of Helvetica. It appeals to my exact nature and has humanist touches like the bend at the top of ascenders (b, h, k, l). Fira Sans is a free alternative that is derived from it and works well when Meta is not an option. For code samples, Fira Code pairs well with it.


Helvetica praise always feels like wine commentary to me. 20% of it is probably on point, 80% is the reviewer stroking their ego. It's really boring. It's not even Vanilla.

Very cool. Mega thanks! That's a great font!

Nimbus Sans L and its descendent TeX Gyre Heros are pretty close and suitable for your license requirements.

I was going to praise URW++ for their trust-based rather than analytics-based web licensing (and for their long-standing commission of Ghostscript and GNU fonts), but then I noticed it was sold to Monotype, like almost all type foundries. What options do we have left for non-intrusive (banner-requiring) web fonts?

Obviously that falls into it "it depends on what you're looking for" territory, but some of my favorite (AFAIK) open source fonts:

- Arimo, Tinos, and Cousine: The "Croscore" fonts designed by Monotype's Steve Matteson as metrically-compatible replacements for Helvetica, Times New Roman, and Courier, respectively. (Red Hat's Liberation fonts are basically the same.)

- Adobe's Source Code, Source Sans, and Source Serif Pro fonts: now that Source Serif has its italics (and Google Fonts looks like they've finally bothered to update), these are pretty terrific.

- Charter: an old font that's actually really high quality.

- The Computer Modern fonts from TeX: easy to overlook if you're not using TeX, and makes anything you use them with look like you are using TeX, but they're good typefaces.

- Cooper Hewitt: a sans serif designed for the museum of the same name. Maybe the most relevant in a discussion about Neue Haas Grotesk, since it's another font with a strong sense of design and purpose, and, well, isn't Helvetica. :)

Most of the Google Fonts can be downloaded and self-hosted, FWIW, and you can use Font Squirrel to subset them and make them extremely small and fast. I do that with a few commercial typefaces on my own web site. (Commercial typefaces that actually allow this with their license!)

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