Type Me Back To the 50's!

Arundhuti Ghosh

The Swiss Movement

The Swiss Movement, also known as the International Typographic Style was a revolution that brought a wave of change during the 1950’s. Its origins are traced from Russia and the Netherlands in the 1920’s, however, the movement was made famous by various Swiss designers during the 50’s (Terror. D, 2009). It had a profound impact on various design-related fields, such as graphic design, typography, and architecture. The modernist movement was known for its emphasis on cleanliness and readability (Meggs. P. B, 2014).

Designs created with International Typographic Style typically use a mathematical grid for a harmonious and an accurately structured set up. Typefaces following the movement are all sans-serif, which was chosen. Type was designed in a strict mathematical fashion to focus on detail and precision (Meggs. P. B, 2014).

The use of sans-serif typefaces was one of the strongest characteristics within the movement at the time. Many designers believed they stressed simplicity and clarity; two very important aspects of design during the 1950’s. Furthermore, the use of hierarchy and different sizing of type displayed important information first, and secondary information afterwards. This became another trend within the Swiss movement that is still regularly followed today (Terror. D, 2009).


(Ballmer3, 2009)


The Swiss Movement slowly spread throughout the world throughout the late 1950’s to 60’s, as many international designers began to adopt the new approach to typography. To this day, its designs, as well as many of the typefaces born from the Movement (ie. Helvetica), are widely used in a variety of mediums. The sans-serif trend has given many typefaces a professional and modern makeover; a notable and historic change to the way type was done from the 50’s and onwards.


Ballmer3 [Digital image]. (2009, July 17). Retrieved November 24, 2016, from


Meggs, P. B. (2014, May 3). International Typographic Style. Retrieved November 23, 2016, from

Terror, D. (2009, July 17). Lessons From Swiss Style Graphic Design – Smashing Magazine. Retrieved November 23, 2016, from



Fonts from Back in the Day

The 1950’s gave birth to many infamous typefaces, which stood the test of time and are frequently used in today’s day and age. Below are four notable fonts from the decade filled with innovation and unique design.



(B.Helvetica, 2015)

Developed in 1957, the sans serif typeface is widely used throughout world renowned companies, such as General Motors, Nestle, and BMW (Rohrer. F, 2007). The U.S and Canadian governments have also identified Helvetica as their official typeface. Designed by Swiss designer Max Miedinger, the neo-grotesque style has been adopted by many workplaces throughout the decades and has become known as one of the most popular typefaces in the world (Webber. H, 2012)



The serif typeface was designed by  Adrian Frutiger for the Deberny & Peignot Foundry in 1956. It was the first new font developed for the process of phototypesetting, which became popular in use from the late 50’s to early 60’s (Webber. H, 2012).





Created by Aldo Novarese and Alessandro Butti for the Nebiolo Type Foundry in 1952, the sans-serif font has been widely used in publication design and packaging (Webber. H, 2012). It became the favourite for many designers in the 60’s and early 70’s, and is still widely associated with the science fiction genre.


Designed in 1950 by Hermann Zapf, Sistina was originally named Aurelia Titling (Webber. H, 2012). At the time of its first release in 1951 in Frankfurt, Germany, the typeface consisted only of all capital letters, till the digital release brought the creation of all small capital letters. The typeface is heavily influenced by Michelangelo Titling, which is was based on the inscriptions from Ancient Rome (Sistina).



B.Helvetica [Digital image]. (2015, November 25). Retrieved November 24, 2016, from

Microgramma_Specimen [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2016, from

Rohrer, F. (2007, May 09). BBC NEWS | UK | Magazine | Helvetica at 50. Retrieved November 23, 2016, from

Sistina – Webfont & Desktop font « MyFonts. (n.d.). Retrieved November 23, 2016, from

Webber, H. (2012, February 10). Design Flashback: 10 Iconic 1950’s Fonts. Retrieved November 23, 2016, from


Humble Goodbyes for Honest Ed’s at Bathurst Station in Toronto

The infamous discount store located on the corner of Bathurst and Bloor Street in Toronto, Ontario will be shutting down for good on December 31st, 2016. Opening in 1948 and managed by icon Ed Mirvish himself, Honest Ed’s gave Torontonians a sense of humbleness and familiarity with their quirky marketing tactics and out of the ordinary carnival-like atmosphere (Owens. A, 2016). However, what really gave the store its infamy, is their hand painted signs and posters.


(Peake. M, 2015)


Honest Ed’s was well loved for their brightly painted signs, mainly consisting of the colours red, blue and yellow. Being the quickest to paint, the store used a consistent Slash typeface for their signs and posters (The Honest Ed’s Identity System, 2014). The design has played a crucial part in forming the identity of the store, and even Toronto in the 1950’s.

With Honest Ed’s due for closure at the end of the year, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has set up a temporary display at their Bathurst Station to pay homage to the iconic store (Owens. A, 2016). Signs around the station have been replaced with hand painted ones in the style of the discount emporium’s bright coloured posters. The walls of the platform are decorated with clever puns and witty banter, a well-known and well-loved marketing tactic used by the store.

The display is set to last until the store closes down for good, however, the TTC is currently working to make the display a permanent one (Owens. A, 2016). Honest Ed’s visual character was such a necessary part to make the store successful and iconic to Torontonians. Their notable typefaces gave the store a life of its own that thrived in the 1950’s.


Peake, M. (2015, April 9). [Honest Ed’s Signage]. Retrieved November 24, 2016, from

Ghosh, A. (2016, November 17). Honest Ed’s Bathurst Station Display [Digital image].

Owens, A. (2016, November 2). TTC pays tribute to Honest Ed’s | The Toronto Observer. Retrieved November 23, 2016, from

The Honest Ed’s Identity System. (2014, March 10). Retrieved November 23, 2016, from


The New Way of Typography

The art of typography exploded around the 1950’s. The decade gave birth to an array of new and exciting typefaces, many that are still used to this day. After World War Two, optimism and hope flourished in consumers and businesses alike. Consumerism faced a massive boom, leading to marketing and advertising efforts as more design oriented. Colours and designs chosen for posters, magazines and billboards were reflective of the optimism that became rooted in society’s way of life (Dominguez, R., De Leon, P., & Apigo, R. 2014, July).

Posters and ads were designed with bright colours reflecting the new hope after the Second World War [Teenage Thunder Movie Poster], [1950’s Poster].

Many notable typographers from the decade were responsible for the major trends of the time. Hermann Zapf, a leader of the humanist movement, combined the characteristics of serif and sans serif typefaces to create an array of new and sleek fonts (Dominguez, R., De Leon, P., & Apigo, R. 2014, July).

The typeface for the signs in Toronto’s subway stations originally revealed in 1954, channels in the modernism of the mid-century along with retro style features that gave the city some visual identity it once lacked (M. 2011).

As consumerism grew, the demand for more modern typography became great. This had not only set the ball in motion for variety in type but allowed the process of photo setting to emerge (Dominguez, R., De Leon, P., & Apigo, R. 2014, July). The 1950’s became a defining point in its evolution as various movements based on type characteristics and design, in general, gained momentum.


M. (2011, August 7). Ttcposterslead [Digital image]. Retrieved November 12, 2016, from

[Teenage Thunder Movie Poster]. (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2016, from

[1950’s poster]. (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2016, from

Dominguez, R., De Leon, P., & Apigo, R. (2014, July 13). Typography from 1950’s to Present. Retrieved November 23, 2016, from


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