Akzidenz Grotesk

Akzidenz Grotesk

Here at Helveticahaus, we spend a lot of time talking about – you guessed it – Helvetica. But today, we’re going to take a step back and look at a font whose form and philosophy greatly inspired our Miedinger and Hoffman: Akzidenz Grotesk.

So, sans serif typefaces are pretty common. Look around this site. I dare you to find a single serif. That probably has something to do with our mission statement, but the point stands that the sans serif is here to stay. But it didn’t used to be like that. The sans serif typeface wasn’t invented until the late 1800s, and even then their production was erratic and often incomplete. They reserved mainly for headlines and large signage, typesetters preferring to stick to seriffed typefaces for body copy.


And then there came Akzidenz Grotesk. Akzidenz meaning “display face” and Grotesk meaning “sans-serif” (auf Deutsch, natürlich). Designed in 1896 and published by Berthold Type Foundry, Akzidenz Grotesk was the first serious sans serif typeface, and thought it was originally designed as a display face, its use soon extended to body copy because of its readable lowercase and versatile weights. Favored for its simplicity and loved for its ability to read as both modern and expressive, Akzidenz Grotesk soon grew in popularity and usage.


When Eduard Hoffman decided to create a new typeface in 1950 (spoiler: it was Helvetica), sans serif typefaces had reached a new high in popularity. By this time, Akzidenz Grotesk had become the most popular sans serif typeface in Switzerland. So when Hoffman and his chosen typeface designer Max Miedinger sat down to build a new typeface, Akzidenz was a huge influence. In fact, Miedinger and Hoffman compare Neue Haas to Akzidenz constantly throughout their design process. Looking at the above comparison of the two fonts, the influence is clear. There are a few stylistic differences, but the fundamental philosophies of the two fonts clearly align.

And this is what I find so cool about Akzidenz Grotesk. While Helvetica improved upon an existing trend in typeface design, Akzidenz revolutionized it. It bridged the gap between serifs of the 1800s and the resulting sans serif explosion of the early/mid 1900s. Akzidenz Grotesk truly changed the way we design type. And that’s pretty cool.

Haas Type Foundry

Today we’re going to take a brief look back at Helvetica’s birthplace, the Haas Type Foundry, or the Haas’sche Schriftgiesserei for all you Deutsche Liebhaber.


Haas Type Foundry buildings in Münchenstein, Switzerland


The foundry dates back to the late 16th century. Yes, two-hundred years before the American Revolution. This foundry is older than the USA. In 1718, it was inherited by Johann Wilhelm Haas (who Wikipedia thinks is a trumpet maker?), and by 1740, the foundry had taken the Haas family name.

Some engravers hard at work, making history

Some engravers hard at work, making history


The Haas was purchased several times and shared matrices with other foundries, so it’s difficult to tell exactly what they produced, but some of the more notable typefaces to come out of The Haas are Caslon in 1722, Bodoni in 1798, and Egyptinne in 1956.


A main character if I’ve ever seen one


And then of course there was Helvetica. Rolling onto the scene in 1957 as the Neue Haas Grotesk, Helvetica is the typeface that put the Haas Type Foundry on the map. Though Linotype shuttered the foundry in 1989, The Haas will live on forever in the beauty of its work.

Introducing: Helveticahaus Coasters


We’ve been working on these coasters for a while now and are super excited to share them with you today! These beauties were printed on 100% cotton paper using 1950s Heidleberg Windmill letterpress. Check out a video of the printing process here.

Helveticahaus Goes Global


Helvetica started in Switzerland, but Helveticahaus has gone global. Helvetica has a knack for bringing people together. Here’s a glimpse of fellow Helvetica fans worldwide. Seattle, San Diego, New York, Portland, Spokane, Brazil, Idaho, the list goes on and on. Where are you from?

Hh Love from Seattle


Here’s our Helvetica friend Michael, wearing his perfect Tt on a perfectly sunny day in Seattle.

Helvetica and Dingbats


We love the idea for Jim Krause’s “Visual Design: Ninety-five things you need to know. Told in Helvetica and dingbats.” Here’s Jim on why he used Helvetica:

“Helvetica was chosen as the font for this book’s text—and for nearly all of the words used within its images—simply because Helvetica is one of those very rare fonts that cannot only deliver a wide range of thematic conveyances (think, for instance of the elegant look of a headline set in the thinnest possible weight of Helvetica versus the commanding boldness of a block of text set in Helvetica Black), but it can also act as an almost invisible thematic component for a layout or illustration whose other visual elements are meant to set the piece’s mood. Know many other fonts that can claim this remarkable set of qualities in quite the same way? I don’t.”

And why Dingbats?

“Because dingbats—like Helvetica—tend to convey themselves without a great deal of self-aggrandizing fanfare,and therefore are capable of adapting to a wide range of styles and moods within the layouts and illustrations they inhabit.”

When you put it like that, who can argue?

Here’s a preview of a few of Krause’s things you need to know.

Helveticahaus Global


Hello John!

We think John’s choice to wear his old/neue Tt in front of the Colosseum was very fitting. What a better place to wear his brand neue Helveticahaus Tt than in front of a 2000 year old amphitheater.