Should a designer ever use Helvetica?


Q: Should a designer ever use Helvetica?

A: Of course not.


I’m glad you asked this question. Designers have long been constrained by the colour Blue — and the variant Yves Klein Blue — with all of its attendant inferred and implied values. It is high time we stood up in unison as a profession and said ‘Nein!’

I stopped using the colour Blue years ago because I skimmed a work of Barthes one time, and quite frankly I have never looked back. There are newer colors out there, better colours, and if we’re honest, too many people use Blue already.

Hell, >>INSERT NAME HERE<<’s logo used to be in some sort of blue. Lame.

I mean, of course you need to know how to apply blue, and know the times when it’s appropriate to use it, but there is always something better you could use instead. Azure is a solid alternative (almost every browser has it) and not many people are using it right now. Indigo is going to be everywhere next year. Keep it to yourself but I hear ColourKit is going to license Lapis Lazuli once they sort out a deal with the studio who owns the pigment rights, and that’s going to be off the hook!

Of course, there are times when Blue is clearly the perfect colour for a project, and that’s always hard because you don’t want your friends on dribbble to make fun of you for using ‘the Man’s colour’. If you’re clever, you can maybe sneak in Beryl and the client won’t notice.

It’s always good to sneak one past the client like that. Stupid clients!

If there’s no obvious alternative and Blue is just the right colour for a logo you’re designing (let’s give credit where due, Blue is a classic), a pretty cool thing to do is to open it up in your colour editor of choice and just rummage around the corners a little bit. I’m an old print guy so excuse my CMYK, but 99-97-03–01 seems a lot fresher and somehow more now if you just tweak it around the edges and change it to 90–90–10–10 (roll your own hex, and get off my lawn). You can of course put a slight gradient in there as well, if you want the logo to appear more dynamic. Want to FedEx camel-case it? Hard step-change the colour values in place of using a soft blend. There is no reason to not do so!

In short, you can go through your entire career without using Blue, and your peers will be pretty impressed. I mean, there are people who say that not being able to deftly use Blue is like being a writer who has never read a work of Shakespeare, or a physicist who can’t name the Laws of Thermodynamics. Those people need to step aside and let the new guard take their place.

Blue is dead. Long live Blue..

Ross Floate has the biggest beard at Floate Design Partners, a damned good design firm in Melbourne, Australia. He loves his friends and hopes they’re not angry with this article because he is a big softy at heart.

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