TypeTalk: Helvetica vs. Neue Helvetica

What is the difference between Helvetica and Neue Helvetica? First, a bit of history.
The original Helvetica design was created by Max Miedinger and released by Linotype in 1957. The second, Neue Helvetica, was a re-working of the 1957 design and was released in 1983 by D. Stempel AG, Linotype’s daughter company. More recently, Linotype released the Neue Helvetica Pro design in 2004, which is an OpenType version with expanded foreign language support.
In 1983, the original Helvetica was redrawn and expanded to rework some of the design characteristics that were the results of the technological limitations of the times – from hot metal to photocomposition to digital. As technologies improved, these limitations were removed, allowing total design freedom. The outcome was Neue Helvetica, a fusion of aesthetic and technical refinements and modifications that resulted in improved appearance, legibility and usefulness.
Some of the changes made to the original Helvetica design include:

  •   A number of characters were subtly altered to be more consistent with the overall design, as well as to improve legibility.

The width of some characters, such as the cap M, has been extended to improve balance and aesthetics.

Widened crossbars on the lowercase f and t increase character recognition in text.

Rounded characters have been given softer curves to better harmonize with the rest of the design.

  • Figures have been widened to better harmonize with the overall design characteristics of Helvetica.  

Widened figures better reflect the characteristics of Helvetica.

  • Some of the punctuation has been reworked and strengthened.  

Punctuation has been strengthened.

  • The cap heights are now consistent throughout the family, correcting subtle differences in the previous version.
  • The x-height has been adjusted to appear visually the same in all weights. In previous versions, the x-heights were all the same actual height, but since type tends to look shorter as it gets heavier, the new x-heights compensate for this optical illusion.
  • Each weight in Neue Helvetica is identified by a number in addition to the weight name for easy reference (similar to Univers and Frutiger).
  • The Neue Helvetica family was expanded to a total of 51 weights, include eight weights plus italics for the regular, obliques for the expanded versions, nine weights plus obliques for the condensed, as well as a bold outline version for the regular width.


James Fritz is a Principal Program Manager: Content Tools and Workflows at LinkedIn.
  • Anonymous says:

    Great article. it is also worth looking at Christian Schwartz’s digital revival ‘Neue Haas Grotesk’

    —Marcus Leis Allion

  • Anonymous says:

    I was involved with the releasing of the Helvetica family which was a hodge podge of older faces from 3 different foundries owned by Linotype. For instance Helvetica Bold Condensed figures were taken from an older version of Inserat grotesque and thrown into the original release. The first customer of the old family was Spartan Typographers of Oakland California and it was a success. The Helvetica demand allowed this family continued until the digital version for the Linofilm caused the rework name Neue Helvetica. The release of Folio and rework of Akzidenz Grotesk took care care of the competition.

  • Anonymous says:

    Very helpful.

  • Anonymous says:

    Not sure if it is to “improve” “aesthetics”, but yes the differences are correctly observed. Personally I prefer Helvetica to Helvetica Neue.

  • Terry Veiga says:

    I’ve always wondered what were the differences and just never got around to researching it. I’ve always used “Neue” for no other reason than it sounded so modern, lol. Thanks for the article.

    Blessings & Prosperity to all,

  • Anonymous says:

    Hmm some really good fonts up here, personally I do prefer Neue more because it can be used both as for some freestyle presentation and for some a bit more serious documents, like essays maybe. But you can’t use these for any REALLY serious documents of course :) Thanks for the post.

  • […] Helvetica Neue is a very popular font, for many reasons. It was released in 1983 but has come a long way from the original Helvetica. You may or may not realize the differences, but for some reason the designers do notice the slim difference! I love Helvetica because of the simplicity and relaxed look the font has.Read more about the differences here. […]

  • alizeyjohn says:

    Not certain on the off chance that it is to “enhance” “feel”, but rather yes the distinctions are effectively watched. Online Assignment Writing Service and by I lean toward Helvetica to Helvetica Neue.

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