Mike Parker who died in February, 2014, did not design Helvetica, but as a type designer, historian, and consultant at Font Bureau, he developed over 1,100 typefaces and is credited for Helvetica’s popularity in the modern world.
Parker was looking for an adaptable European font that would work at many different weights when he discovered the Swiss typeface named Neue Haas Grotesk designed by Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffman of the Haas Type Foundry.
However, when he tried to use it in his company’s industry-standard typesetting machine—the Mergenthaler Linotype Company hot metal typesetting machine—he realized that the European-designed Neue Haas Grotesk had letters that were not created for use with their machine.
This led Parker and his team to rework Haas’s original drawings of letters so they would work on Linotype’s machines. This modification of Neue Haas Grotesk became known as Helvetica.
It is evident that Parker has spent most of his life dedicated to work that only fueled his passion for typefaces. In his career, he also founded Bitstream, the world’s first all-digital type company; was the developer of Pages Software, a powerful early word processor on Steve Jobs’ NeXT Computer platform (now lauded as the early version of Apple’s word processor, Pages), and was still creating new typefaces in 2009, where he created Starling, a series based upon the proto-Times Roman designs of Starling Burgess.
Mike Parker was a man with a single-minded love for typefaces. As he passes on, we remember his work in building the typeface that has arguably been the greatest typographic influence in our modern environment.
The pervasive presence of Helvetica is undeniable, as they are present in numerous popular logos, subway signs, or even come pre-installed on your computer.