am 19. Januar 2006
First the mystery: just why was every alternate page in the book joined together? The reader has to carefully cut the perforations to be able to look at every page. I can't find any reference in the small amount of text about this. My conclusion is that the public use of the type is on the open pages and non-public (or designed) examples are on the perforation joined pages. At least you'll know if you buy a pre-used copy though.
Apart from the perforations I thought this was a handsome little book and homage in the title is very apt. Helvetica is probably the world's number one communication choice, it works just as well on a municipal sign or a new baby announcement. Before it gained a monopoly each nation seemed to have its own jobbing type, Franklin Gothic in America, Gill Sans in England or Antique Olive in France for instance but the super clean lines of Helvetica (and computer typesetting) meant it was no contest for all the others.
The author mentions the uniqueness of Swiss design in the Fifties partly because the top designers always used the same typeface, the stunning Akzidenz Grotesk, which fitted into their rather austere but elegant graphic solutions even though it only had two weights, Medium and Bold. Who needs italic, extended, condensed, extra black and the other weights to communicate efficiently? The rest of the world for a start. From the late Fifties Swiss designed Helvetica spread across the globe and you'll see from the hundreds of examples in these pages some wonderful design solutions, especially the two hundred plus logos that use the face in all sorts of variations. As a style there are probably a few dozen Helveticas now available.
'Homage to a typeface' is a lovely book that'll interest most typographers and anyone who is curious about a lettering style that seems to be everywhere.