“London’s Fastest” poster campaign by Nike
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What looks like a black italic Helvetica Extended is actually Nimbus Sans D Diagonal. While Nimbus Sans is URW++’s version of Helvetica, this style seems not to be included in any font family named Helvetica. It also exists in slightly different form as Berthold Standard Diagonal. I wonder about its provenance. The vendors are not very helpful in this regard: “Designer: Haas Studio, (Max Miedinger), 1994, (1970)” [URW++], and “Designer: H. Berthold” [BertholdTypes]. Linotype’s Neue Helvetica 83 Extended Heavy Oblique or 93 Extended Black Oblique are quite different, and a lot less dynamic.
From top to bottom: Nimbus Sans D Diagonal, Berthold Standard Diagonal, Neue Helvetica 83, Neue Helvetica 93
See also the post about the event, with pictures from the projections on the walls of the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern.
There is apparently according to Google Books a 1974 article that mentions it in Typographische Monatsblätter headed “Ein Exklusivprogramm moderner Schriftvarianten zu «Klassischen» Schriften; vorgestellt von Visutek.” Google Books’ OCR snippet: “Auch die Schriftgiessereien stellten sich auf die modische Entwicklung ein und führten, wie zum Beispiel die Firma D. Stempel AG in Frankfurt, den Neuguss einiger ‹Kabel› Schnitte durch oder entwickelten, wie die Haas’sche Schriftgiesserei in Münchenstein, Ergänzungsschnitte zu bestehenden Satzherstellung Schriftfamilien, die nur für Titelsatzgeräte angeboten wurden, so zum Beispiel die ‹Helvetica Diagonal›.” That seems like a similar account to URW++'s 1970 date.
I also notice that whoever drew (or redrew, or digitised) it gave it a comma-ç, which I believe Berthold was quite fond of (well, maybe not always). In the modern Nimbus Sans family it’s notable how ç varies form from weight to weight, as if they come from different sources.
Thank you, Blythwood, excellent digging! Helvetica Diag also appears in a predigital specimen together with other, partly numbered variants incl. Helvetica 4, 5, 5½, 6, 7, 7½, 8, shown in a talk by Riley Cran (from 5:55) at Typographics 2016. Unfortunately Riley didn’t include the source in his slide. I’ll ask him whether he recalls it.
That sample was provided to me by Mark Simonson, and it is from the 1977 Photo-Lettering catalog, presumably drawn by Ed Benguiat. Ed makes reference to working on their version of Helvetica for several years, in a lecture of his that I’ve seen on Vimeo.
Here’s Ed Benguiat in conversation with Debbie Millman, saying he “had to draw a hundred and twenty Helveticas. It took me two years.” I don’t know when this was, but Photo-Lettering’s “Haas Helvetica Diagonal” (along with many other variants) appears in their One Line Manual of Styles from 1971, marked as “Typeface or equivalent – non-exclusive”.
Can Haas really have sold Helvetica offshoots done by Ed Benguiat…? That would be glorious, but there’s a joint interview in Print of Benguiat and Vignelli in 1991 discussing his Helvetica offshoots-he’s asked “For the Haas foundry?” and says “No, for Photo-Lettering.” But I suppose that doesn’t rule out a licensing deal.
I was curious and reread Helvetica Forever-it doesn’t seem to cover Helvetica Diagonal but page 63 (the section written by Axel Langer) comments ”[Linotype] held the exclusive rights to market Helvetica as a typesetting machine typeface…Linotype only allowed the Haas Typefoundry the freedom to license Helvetica to the manufactures of the so-called photographic headline setters that were mainly used to produce newspaper headlines and minor printed matter."