Regarding Brand New’s “Why I hate Helvetica”
I love Brand New. Describing its purpose as to “chronicle and provide opinions on corporate and brand identity work”, a huge part of the site simply presents logos before a redesign and after, and invites comparisons. You could get lost in those archives for hours.
However, I have to – admittedly belatedly – take issue with the following post – New University of the Arts London Logo, or Why I Hate Helvetica. Click the link, read the article, especially the rant at the bottom – I’ll wait.
Back? Good. Now, first thing’s first. I don’t really care for that design. (The underlines on the guide and directory are particularly hideous.) And whilst I rather like Helvetica, I probably wouldn’t choose it for many applications these days – if only because, yes, it’s probably been over-used at this point.
No, what I take objection to with that argument is the essential premise: that something 50 years old has definitely been improved upon. I could give plenty of arguments against this – although throwing in Shakespeare feels rather like a new variant of Godwin’s law – so I’ll just use the following relevant example: the famed Mexico ’68 Olympics identity, widely regarded as one of the finest pieces of graphic design ever.
The fallacy here is simple: not everything gets better. And I fully admit the corollary: not everything gets worse.
Blind nostalgia is a very bad thing. That way lies people saying that everything was lovely in the old days, and blocking their ears at the very mention of things such as backstreet abortions. But so is a blanket dismissal of the past – the assumption that because something is old, it has definitely been improved upon.
Maybe it has. Maybe it hasn’t. But it’s certainly not a given.