Graphic Design Clickbait and the “New” Helvetica Typeface Refresh

helvetica typeface example

There’s a new Helvetica!

Helvetica’s been redesigned!

Your favorite typeface just became obsolete!

As I’ve touched on in at least one previous post, any time a graphic design story makes the major news outlets, I cheer a little. When Helvetica, one of the world’s most ubiquitous and recognizable typefaces, gets an update– well, it should be big news.

So, while the clickbait headlines screamed about how the Helvetica sky was falling, the truth is a little more complicated.

There is a “new” Helvetica, a redesigned one, but Helvetica as we know it certainly didn’t become obsolete. Rather, Monotype, one of the big players in the type design world, released a new version of the typeface that (most of us) know and love, updating it to become more friendly for digital. The updates were long overdue.

Helvetica, with which most of us interact multiple times a day, has been around since 1957. Created as a neutral, readable and no-nonsense typeface, Helvetica was sort of the typographical embodiment of its nation of origin, Switzerland, when it was released. In the six decades since, it has become the de facto default typeface for much of the world, used in everything from corporate wordmarks to transportation systems.

However, times change and the ways in which type is displayed change, too. While Helvetica has always looked great in larger sizes, it has never really shone in smaller applications. On a subway map or on the side of an airliner, Helvetica is great. For typesetting and modern mobile technology, which requires much smaller font sizing, it doesn’t work so well.

The funny thing is, Helvetica was redesigned for the “digital age” once before: in 1983, with the introduction of Helvetica Neue. Of course, in the early Eighties, designers were concerned primarily with maximizing the performance of low-resolution monitors and printers, not with the readability of small text on mobile apps and wearable electronic appliances. While books and magazines are usually set in nine- or ten-point type, devices like Apple Watches and Fitbits often utilize micro-type, meaning that words on display are set in the four- to- seven- point range. Clearly, if, Helvetica was to keep its position at the top of the type heap, then some modernization was in order.

Which brings us to Helvetica Now, the “new” Helvetica mentioned in all of the recent headlines.

What about Helvetica Now differs from Helvetica? Not much, at first glance. Helvetica Now is still recognizable as Helvetica, as it should be. But look closely, and you’ll see that the letterforms are different. Very different, and size-specific, particularly in the “micro” version, intended for use at small point sizes.

There’s a rounded, fuller appearance of letterforms, across the board. The apertures, the enclosed parts of the letterforms, have been enlarged, so that they don’t close up when shrunk down; a taller, uniform, x-height helps allow for this. Kerning, the space between letters, has been increased, keeping individual characters visually separated. The superscript dots above the lowercase i’s and j’s are larger in size. And, special characters, like ampersands and currency marks, have been simplified.

That’s Helvetica Now in a nutshell. It is not a replacement for Helvetica. It is not a better version of Helvetica, either. It is simply a different one. But, one better suited for the digital realm.

So, keep using the Helvetica (or Helveticas) you already have. They’ll serve you well for years to come. Helvetica is a classic typeface if there ever was one; its value quantified by its continued evolution.

Let’s check in again, in another two or three decades, when the next “new” Helvetica is announced.


ABOUT Ryan Bahrke

One of Wordsmithie's senior designers, Ryan has more than 15 years of experience in creative direction and management, working with companies like Google, Quantcast, RSM, Navigant, Starbucks, and Ace Hotel. Ryan is the principal of Auslander Creative in Denver.


What’s New In Social Media In 2019—And What It Means for Your Business

what's new in social media in 2019

Who remembers when Instagram said goodbye to chronologically ordered posts in 2016 and tweaked its algorithm to reflect the photos they thought we’d appreciate most? Or how about when Facebook adopted a similar practice last year, prioritizing personal rather than promotional content on our feeds? If you were a small business or influencer who relied heavily on social media for sales, you know exactly what I’m talking about—and chances are, you weren’t thrilled about the new “improvements.”

But that’s the thing about social media: It’s always evolving, which is arguably either the best or worst thing about it. On the one hand, the platforms that are constantly undergoing updates are also the ones that we as business owners and consumers use the most, and will probably use long into the future—at least, as long as the benefit outweighs the burden. On the other hand, changing algorithms and features can mean an unpredictable—and potentially negative—impact on your business if you’re not willing to adapt and flow with the times. But you can’t adapt to something you’re not aware of, which is why we’re taking a look at the latest updates in social media and what they mean for businesses.

Facebook launches Automated Ads platform, video editing features, and appointment booking capabilities. With over 90 million small businesses on Facebook, the platform says they’re proud to assist businesses of all sizes to grow and create jobs. What this looks like: You fill out a simple questionnaire about your company’s mission and goals, and based on your answers, the platform automatically generates up to six different versions of the same ad for publication across Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and Audience Network. Advertisers can also add their own call-to-action buttons, additional text, and creative details—as well as budget preferences. Once it’s active, Automated Ads will optimize the ad campaign to showcase the best-performing option, and routinely provide performance notifications plus suggestions for improvement.

On top of the Automated Ads offering, Facebook has also added automatic cropping, video trimming and image and text overlays to its video editing options, as well as appointment managing tools that allow customers and clients to book appointments through Facebook and Instagram.

Why you should care: Thankfully, you don’t have to have a crazy advertising budget, mad tech skills, or in-depth marketing knowledge to create an effective ad campaign on the world’s largest social media platform. And with the extra video editing capabilities, small businesses can now compete with big brands for a shot in the spotlight. In our opinion, you’d be mistaken not to take advantage of Facebook’s newest feature.

Instagram tests hiding photo like-count from followers. In a bold move to promote mental health and mindful scrolling, Instagram recently announced the new “private like-count” update, which removes the number of likes your photos get from your followers (but not you). Canadians are the first to experience the test, but if met with positive reactions, the rest of us won’t be far behind.

Why you should care: While most people can agree that this is a good thing—comparison is the thief of joy, after all—it does make us wonder what this will mean for the content creators, marketers, and influencers who rely on public like-counts to grow their biz. Here’s our advice: Focus on your content. Quality content and community management is a growing brand’s bread and butter, proving time and time again to be the #1 way to reach your target audience and drive customers to your site via Instagram. Bragging rights aside, you don’t need to shout your like-count from the (digital) rooftops to be heard or make an impact, especially if you’re consistently rolling out captivating content for your already devoted followers—the number of which will remain public on your profile, and can be used as one metric to measure the effectiveness of your campaign. Who knows? In eliminating performance pressure, the lack of like-counts might even drive deeper engagement among all users, benefiting brands and individuals alike.

Pinterest announces new campaign type for Promoted Pins. If you’re not already taking advantage of Pinterest’s Promoted Pins feature, now’s the time to start. The platform recently announced their conversion optimization campaign, which optimizes Promoted Pins for specific consumer actions—such as online checkouts, increased signups to a mailing list, or filling lead generation forms—instead of just clicks. To get the ball rolling, advertisers simply choose conversions as a campaign objective and watch as impressions turn into sales.

Why you should care: Ever heard of the common piece of marketing wisdom, make it easy for people to buy from you? Well, with Pinterest’s new feature, buying/opting in has never been easier. As a business, this should be music to your ears—by utilizing Promoted Pins, you’re now more likely to connect with Pinners who are not only interested in your product, but ready to take action.

According to Pinterest, companies that have experimented with the campaign have seen drastic improvements in sales. Take Gravity Blankets, for example, who achieved a 2x increase in sales and a 58% lower cost per acquisition. Flaviar, a club for spirits enthusiasts, saw 409% more traffic and an 8x increase in leads from October 2018 compared to the month before.

Social media can be an invaluable tool for small businesses to market products and services, build trust, and increase conversion rates—but only if used to its full advantage. One thing’s for certain: As long as social platforms are evolving to keep up with our tech and data-driven world, so too should your marketing strategy.


ABOUT Emily Blasik

Emily Blasik is a freelance writer and Nutritional Therapy Consultant in training from Dallas, TX. When she’s not blogging or practicing yoga, you can find her hanging out at a local coffee shop—nose-deep in a good mystery novel, snapping photos of her extra frothy cappuccino or planning her next travel adventure.


Shedding Some Light on Copywriting and Voice-Search Friendly Content

copywriting and voice-friendly search devices such as alexa and siri

“Where can I get a headlight replaced near me this weekend?”

That was the question I posed to my smartphone’s voice assistant after police pulled me over for a burnt-out headlight (gulp). The search results turned up several auto parts stores across my greater urban area, but none with specific information about headlights, nor whether they could help me on a Sunday (before I got pulled over again).

So I tried a traditional search on my computer by typing “weekend headlight replacement Boston” into a search box. This time, the search results did turn up information about headlight replacement at a nearby auto service shop. However, the webpage was an example of less-than-helpful Search Engine Optimization (SEO) article writing, with paragraph after paragraph stuffed with keywords stating the obvious: “Your car’s headlights illuminate the roadway.” “Headlight replacement is vital to the safe operation of your vehicle.” Etc. And there was nothing about weekend service.

I ended up finding a service station the old-fashioned way: through a referral and a direct phone call. This shop did not turn up in either set of search results from my phone or my computer. The frustrating experience searching for my car’s replacement headlight drove home the point for me that copywriting needs to gear up for the voice search revolution.

A Return to Natural Language (Hoorah!)

Should copywriters care about searches submitted to voice-controlled personal assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, and to smart speakers such as Google Home? YES! Should we abandon the basics of keyword-rich SEO writing? NO! Let’s shed a little light on this topic.

Voice search is on the rise, as more and more consumers use their smartphones and smart speakers to help them get answers to assist them in their daily lives. Consumers use voice search to research products, find businesses, seek out customer support, and to get their hands on other information needed to inform purchases and other decisions.

Voice search is, however, different from traditional keyword search in a number of ways. Voice searches tend to be in the form of questions including “how,” “what,” “where,” “best,” and other trigger words. They also tend to be longer than keyword searches and are linked to local search, often with the words “near me.” What does this mean for copywriters?

The good news is copywriters can optimize web pages for voice search by returning to natural language—a time-proven best practice that has sometimes gotten lost in the quest to write keyword-rich SEO copy. Keywords are still important for traditional text search. But voice search presents an opportunity for copywriters to write in a more conversational style, to mirror the way people speak and how they ask questions.

Consider doing some research to find out what voice search keywords are trending in your industry. Think about optimizing your web content for those words (including long-tail keywords—specific two- or three-word keyword phrases that customers use when close to point of purchase—that may turn up in voice search queries), as well as for local SEO. Consumers on the move asking search questions into their smartphones are likely to be looking for things close to where they are located. Ditto for people at home asking their smart speakers questions about where to buy/dine/shop/go locally.

Another bit of good news: A treasure trove of content may be waiting for you in the FAQ section of your website—content that could be further developed and expanded on for voice search queries. Pay attention to what questions your customers are asking, how they are asking them, and what keywords they are using. Because with the rise of voice search, more and more of those questions are being spoken aloud by real people. Customers are looking for answers. And the questions will keep on coming.


ABOUT Heidi LaFleche

Heidi launched her writing career as a newspaper and magazine journalist—most notably as a Boston correspondent for People magazine. She transitioned into marketing communications for business, helping clients find the right words to engage their audiences. Heidi is a Senior Editor for Wordsmithie, and also runs her own freelance writing business on the side. She writes within a range of industries including technology, healthcare, financial services, legal services, education and nonprofits. Her slogan: “Every business has a story. Let’s tell yours together.”


How Marketers Can Use VUI to Their Advantage

VUI guide for marketers

Advances in voice user interface (VUI) technology mean its presence is “heard” nearly everywhere. Voice commands and small conversations with virtual assistants to get information, drive, cook and more, are becoming increasingly common. By 2020, according to gartner.com, 30 percent of web browsing will be done without a screen. We see this in my household, where my four-year-old son has a special bond with our Amazon Alexa device. Alexa is always available and willing to listen, and, when she understands what he is asking for, she gives him exactly what he wants—from silly songs like “Baby Shark” to random facts about dinosaurs.

In addition to its influence on our personal lives, VUI technology is also altering the way content strategists and marketing specialists produce information and deliver it to their audiences. Here are some things to consider when mainstreaming VUI into your content marketing strategies:

Determine how VUI can advance your marketing efforts and overall goals
As the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes a bigger part of our lives, you’ll want to ensure there’s a good reason to use VUI as a marketing strategy as opposed to other, traditional forms of communication. Will a VUI feature enhance your overall marketing goals? For example, a VUI feature on your app or website could give your brand a voice or more personality as you interact and connect with current and new users. If your frequent user or target audience is tech savvy, and your content can be adapted to the shorter, conversational VUI delivery, adding it to your overall marketing plan will be beneficial.

Be aware of the pitfalls
Developing and implementing a marketing strategy that uses VUI can be tricky. Make sure you consider the best method to communicate through voice interaction with your client base. How do you interact? What do you say? Focusing on user experience (UX) and developing a VUI tone that is clear, concise and conversational is very important. How can the VUI application help your organization’s overall goals? There are numerous articles and guides that explain the ins-and-outs of how a design team would set up and personalize a VUI application for the most effective use.

Anticipate the needs of your target consumer
Optimize your website for mobile use. Create good content and make it easily accessible through voice interaction. It’s important to understand how the application will be put to use in everyday life. The needs of a busy mom with a sick child are different from those of a college student Ubering across town to meet friends for dinner. One might need to simply gather information about her feverish baby, while the other might need to use VUI to quickly transfer money to pay for dinner. The approach they’ll use to initiate their VUI request will be very different. As you develop a strategic plan for content and marketing, you’ll need to anticipate how those conversations will go.

While we aren’t quite as advanced as the technology used in the scenes from The Black Panther movie, where they’re operating floating digital 3D maps through simple voice commands, we are certainly moving in a direction where voice technology is becoming mainstream. VUI is forging ahead and changing users’ everyday experience with the web. With its pitfalls and advancements, it’s important to stay on top of the trend and ensure you have a plan that is clear and beneficial for your strategic content and marketing goals, as well as your users.


ABOUT Arris Shabaglian

For more than a decade Arris has worked as a freelance writer, editor and communications consultant. She has also taught university level courses on the art of communication, public relations and journalism. Arris is a Pinterest addict who loves a good night’s sleep and a nice cup of coffee. She resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and three kids (hence the need for a nice cup of coffee).


Wading Through eLearning/eTraining Trends: Make REAL Impact in 2019

elearning and etraining trends 2019

Each year—heck, each quarter, really—lists touting the top trends in eLearning and eTraining seem to pop up. And, for the past few years, the best practices seemed to remain the same: Maximize engagement. Provide learner-centered focus. Boost performance. Focus on individual learning styles. Deliver via digital/mobile devices. Embrace gaming and video options—and now, Artificial Intelligence (AI).

We know that true value lies in eLearning modules offering an individualized, learner-centric, experiential focus. The most successful eTraining courses are those designed to actually boost performance at work and incentivize participants to stay in the game. Programs that are rooted in direct, practical, realistic communication practices with learners at every level have a higher success rate, and companies that provide development opportunities as part of their perks packages acquire and retain great talent.

What’s Working in eLearning and eTraining Now—and Why It’s So Exciting
Sift through lists geared to equip instructional designers, and ignite the creativity of content delivery specialists, and two newish concepts emerge: Adaptive learning and design thinking.

Adaptive learning is the concept that fuels innovative tech tools in delivering more personalized learning opportunities. Learning modules—their activities and tasks—can be created to stimulate participants to stay more engaged in the learning process. Algorithms are geared to evolve as learners move through important content and problem-solve to advance through a course or learning module. The ability to adjust and scale a learner’s path and pace provides more interest and enthusiasm in embracing key content, which results in more potential success on the job.

Design thinking is what savvy instructional designers are using to whip up creative, strategic problem-solving tasks within course construction. Those in this role realize that sometimes problems are difficult to define, and that content needs to be delivered in various ways to reach learners. Most designers have previously overlooked these two issues. The design thinking “process” includes taking into consideration how learners actually do things—how they actually learn. This approach often necessitates providing multiple solutions rather than one simple, catchall answer. Such strategic flexibility, especially in online trainings and courses, helps infuse the overall learning experience with more meaning, which ultimately guides further engagement with the content.

As you think about how to best engage your own training program participants, dive into these two core concepts. Adaptive learning and design thinking are not simply hot trends in training development and instructional design, but will prove to be key features of successful eLearning programs, period.


ABOUT Eve Connell

Eve spends most billable hours writing, editing and helping professionals of all stripes with communication skills and leadership development. With degrees in French literature, philosophy, and linguistics, she also enjoys helping businesses and entrepreneurs develop their brands. Fancying herself a successful worm rancher, singer and flower arranger, Eve also lends her talent and expertise to several non-profit arts and educational organizations.