Yet, as an expert authority and professional, Eduard Hoffmann would have sensed that Swiss typography was in a process of evolution and that new, innovative trends in design were starting to emerge. As a businessman, he would also have recognized that sans serif typefaces played a major role in the business world—or to be more precise: that Akzidenz Grotesk, a sans serif typeface released by the Berlin-based H. Berthold AG Type Foundry, played a major role. So, would it not be possible, Hoffmann must have asked, to achieve the same success with his own typeface?

The direction the new typeface was to take was soon established after discussions with “prominent” Swiss graphic artists and with the indispensable advertising department of the chemical firm J.R. Geigy AG in Basel. It would not take its cue from distinctive creations such as Erbar, Futura, or Gill Sans but rather from relatively simple, understated typefaces. As models or points of reference, Hoffmann cited the Semibold weight of Berthold’s Akzidenz Grotesk, the Schelter Grotesk of 1890, available at Haas as French Grotesk, as well as Normal Grotesk of 1943.

Miedinger began his work in the autumn of 1956. The plan was to begin with a 20-point, Semibold weight. The designer sent his first proposals for a Semibold uppercase alphabet from A to Z to Hoffmann at the beginning of October. It was common then to make hand-drawn letters roughly ten centimeters tall that could be photographically reduced to the 20-point size. Miedinger stated in his cover letter to Hoffmann that the typeface was “slightly more robust-looking” than its predecessors.

Axel Langer
(Helvetica forever Story of a Typface)