It’s been a while since I walked up Bathurst Street in the city, and this group of type styles, between Castlereagh and Pitt, reminds me that I’m well overdue for another walk through town. My attention was first drawn by the flag-like chemist sign. The H and M are missing on this side but there is no loss of legibility as the symmetrical sans serif upper case letters—which look like Helvetica Black—can be easily read in reverse. Half hidden behind the E is the original building mark, and it almost goes without saying that where there is an accessible bit of wall, there is graffiti.
It’s not so much the quote, but the juxtaposition of textures and the harmony of colour and tone. I like how the tears in the paper of the poster look like intentionally designed black triangles, and how the light through the dirty pane of glass illuminates the shapes inside. The whole reminds me of one of those fabulous Rauschenberg ‘combines’, the ones where he silkscreens on to sheer fabric which is floated in front of the collage. The typeface looks like a version of Helvetica Heavy Condensed with a little judicious kerning and condensing to improve the fall of the lines.
It was a drizzly grey Sunday. We weren’t the only ones who thought pizza and beer sounded like a good idea, and although the car park wasn’t completely full, we did have to park in the ‘very far’ area. Helvetica can be badly used and overused, but it can also be a well-chosen and appropriate typeface. Here, Helvetica Bold Condensed is condensed more, letter-spaced, and treated to complement the timber boards on which it is painted. The letter shapes retain excellent legibility even when manipulated, and needless to say, we had no trouble finding the car when it was time to go home.
This has the appearance of Helvetica Rounded Condensed, but the rounded quality of the stroke terminators is no doubt the result of the engraving tool rather than a conscious and deliberate choice of typeface variant. Helvetica, the most widely used sans serif typeface, was developed in 1957 by Max Miedinger for Edouard Hoffman at the Haas Type Foundry in Switzerland. The Helvetica family contains a large and varied range of weights, and versions also exist for alphabets and scripts other than English. Helvetica is everywhere, from the New York subway to the space shuttle to this small and humble metal footpath plate, scuffed and worn (in a very aesthetically pleasing manner, might I add) by years of foot traffic.