I was saddened to read of the end of the life, at 84, of Mike Parker. (Who’s he?). Without you being aware of it, he has touched your life. How do I know? Because you are reading this.
Mike was one of the most profoundly influential typographers of all time. He held a master’s degree from Yale on the subject of Garamond typefaces, then for 22 years vigorously expanded the library of fonts from 150 to 1 500 at Linotype, adopting, adapting, inventing, refining and selling to clients around the world. His influence was enormous in the look, feel and readability of newspapers, magazines, advertising, packaging, signage and the high standards we accept today. It was deeply felt across America and Europe and the far-flung English-speaking world.
Over the shoulders of Swiss designer Max Meidinger, he coaxed the birth of ‘Helvetica’, a newly authoritative design, breathtaking in its boldness, clarity, purity and beauty of form. For me, seeing this new face for the first time on a Swiss poster in 1970 at a trade fair in Melbourne, the effect was riveting. Istole the pester!
Helvetica famously became the house font of Lufthansa, then on and on its applications spread from street, airways and highway signage, the New York subway, to the modern-day logo of McDonald’s and thousands of others. Steve Jobs, an addict of pure typefonts, opened the door for Mike to adapt the typefaces for electronic usage. Right now, billions of characters are being sent across the world in Helvetica for it is the default face of Apple Mac. And if you have tuned in to ‘Spritz’, the new app with its Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP), you will appreciate how far we have come from Gutenberg’s Bible set in the dense downstrokes of ‘Blackletter’ to this exquisitely legible type face of ‘Helvetica’, whose red letters coax you to comprehend 1 000 words a minute!
PS: The intense passion of the typeface designer is brought out in this anecdote: At a design school annual reunion, the professor asked alumni of their year’s achievements; the typographer said: “I’m working on the letter g. Next year the same enquiries, to which the typographer replied: “I told you. I’m working on the letter g.”
If you are that one person in a thousand who has noticed that the typeface you see in the headlines and body text of this magazine, Leadership, is not found anywhere else, the answer is simple. It was designed exclusively for us: every letter, numeral, cap, lower case, ascender, descender, serif, comma, asterisk and apostrophe. The font reads superbly. It’s name is ‘Leadership’.