7th May 2017
579 Dumbarton Rd
Glasgow is blessed with beautiful sunshine this weekend, university deadlines are a thing of the past and I am out to find a delicious breakfast spot to celebrate. After much consideration, it becomes clear that the place to mark this day should be my favourite from the past 9 months - Meadow Road. Located within the Patrick area of Glasgow, away from Byers Road and Kelvinbridge it has the the added appeal of requiring a conscious decision to make the trip.
Although typography isn’t regarded as one of the design engineer’s primary interests, it always seems to be a hot discussion topic between classmates. As a result, creating posters in my earlier years as a student brought me hours of unnecessary stress - scrolling through the Adobe font library or searching for fonts on myfonts.com. As well as being a waste of time, the results often failed to have much visual impact and it was obvious that they had been produced by an amateur.
During this year especially I have found comfort within the restrictions of Swiss graphic design - namely Grid Systems and Helvetica. For the majority of visual communicators the type may be restrictive but for a PDE student I believe that the use of Helvetica has an unparalleled argument for being the only font.
Reading ‘Helvetica forever - Story of a Typeface’ allowed me to see that it is not just the visual appeal of Helvetica but the principles upon which it was born that define it as the perfect tool for the design engineer. Commissioned by Eduard Hoffmann to be a delicate improvement of the existing Akzidenz Grotesk, Helvetica embodies the designer’s tenacity for making the good better and striving to find a solution. With the power to deliver visual impact when needed and be virtually invisible as a body type, it retains key characteristics that we aim to design products with. Not to mention its resistance to ageing and ability to fulfil every requirement (including the shift to digital age typography), which allows it to achieve the most prestigious design commendation of timelessness.
Perhaps it is the fact that we are always asked to be original and create something new for our projects that encourages us to continually search for new typefaces, but we need to remember where our strengths lie. Looking at my earlier post ‘Design in, Ease of use out’ I regret not including Helvetica as an example. The vision and determination of Hoffmann and Miedinger to create a typeface whose composure is neutral yet pleasingly beautiful allows us as users to feel comfortable and not worry when selecting it for use.
In the Helvetica film from Gary Hustwit, the famous dutch designer Wim Crouwel praises its neutrality in poster design due to its ability to exist without drawing attention from the product. In projects past I found myself using a font that was currently “trendy”, but I realised in doing so I was advertising the fact that the product is associated with trends and will not stand the test of time.
As I delve further into my research I begin to wonder whether or not I have been brainwashed by Helvetica’s ubiquity and beauty. It can sometimes be criticised for being boring or unimaginative but to me this is it merely serving its purpose as a typeface. When studied closer, we begin to appreciate the delicacies that give the characters a certain sex appeal. The perfectly horizontal terminals, the internal of the ‘a’ and the elegantly tapered shoulders illustrate how the type was crafted, which in my eyes protects it from being tagged boring. The uniqueness lies in the fact that it is okay to feel brainwashed because we can rely on its ubiquity and the intellectual appreciation that it has earned.
At points throughout the film certain graphic designers reject the use of Helvetica, further confirming my position on the typeface. Dave Carson, Paula Scher and Stefan Sagmeister have designed some of the most iconic album artworks of all time and their use of typography is truly innovative. But this is art! When the object of focus is the typography then it is perfectly okay to use it expressively and have fun with it. However, for the design engineer, typography will always be a tool that should support a product without stealing visual focus, so we must resort to Helvetica.
If we do feel the need to play with typography then Helvetica still facilitates this but provides the restrictions to prevent chaos. The formal restraint gives designers the freedom to visualise their ideas and it can be used as a useful benchmark for us to evaluate our own creations.
It has saved me hours of time, rescued me in times of need and helped me to approach my work with intellectual rigour. I am both seduced by its beauty and comfortable with its ubiquity. Although I have always been aware of its presence (even subconsciously) I can only wish that I had treated it with the respect it deserves earlier in my career.
As usual the journey down into Patrick is more than worth it. A faultless coffee served by ever friendly staff sets the tone nicely for the exquisite ‘Meadow Road’ and ‘Dumbarton’ eggs that were the staple of this visit.
No matter how well known Meadow Road becomes it always has the feeling of a hidden gem. The huge variety of cakes - which often feature experiments - will always leave you with a distinct memory that makes return imminent. As can be seen, the latest addition of a sour cherry brownie didn't last very long at our mercy.
For excellent coffee, flavoursome food and a surprising selection of cakes, this is definitely the place to be.