|MTV displays lyrics in Helvetica Italic|
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I Want My Helvetica: MTV's Millenial-Friendly Minimalist Design
After decades of graffiti, marker-inspired and grunge design phases, MTV, the one-time "music channel", has entered its IKEA period. Now its on-air graphics are all based on the clean, uncluttered lines of the ubiquitous Helvetica typeface, which adapts well to a variety of colors and still remains readable and full of immediacy and impact.
Excerpt: "MTV was born from the noisy collision of music and design, which is what made it so exciting for Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. But as these age cohorts turned to HBO, Lifetime, and AMC, 'We reached an inflection point when our eclectic identity of the past was getting lost in the cluttered visual landscape of the world today,' Keyton says. 'It became pretty clear that we had to be more consistent and visually unified to stand out and be remembered. We also needed to communicate that we were a new MTV, by doing something bold and different.'
The redesign that Keyton is responsible for was more modern and minimalist, centered around the ubiquitous, white-bread Helvetica typeface. Keyton says he loves the neutrality of the typeface, as well as its functionality, readability, accessibility, and the matter-of-fact way it communicates ideas and provides essential navigation for MTV's audience. 'And especially,' he says, 'that it doesn't get in the way of content, which ultimately is what it's all about.'
Color is a big part of the font face's virtue. Helvetica's boldness and clarity lends itself quite well to nearly any hue. 'There's something alive about eggplant letterforms set against a pale pink,' Keyton says by way of example. 'For episodic work, we brought white space back to television with clean black type surrounded by a lot of negative space. You still don't see a lot of that on TV. We also wanted to combat all the 3-D gobbledygook flying around the television landscape. A lot of that stuff looks like someone's just throwing up on the screen.'
There are also practical concerns addressed by the redesign: 'What was once a DVD cover now has to function as an icon on a cell phone.' "