24: HelvetiCake

Typography. Look into it. It’s literally everywhere. And over the past couple of weeks I’ve been noticing it with much more intensity, and that is not my fault. I’m taking a typography course in my graduate program, and a current project involves a research paper and an editorial layout on a type design/er chosen from a list compiled by the professor. I chose Max Miedinger. I chose Max Miedinger because the sign up sheet was going around the room, I didn’t recognize any of the names, and MAX MIEDINGER sounded like a really awesome, really Swiss man. As soon as I signed my name next to his and passed the sheet along, I whipped out the ol’ smartphone and googled him. It took about two seconds to learn that he was one of the main guys in charge of designing Helvetica. Shit.

You’ve probably heard of Helvetica, and if you haven’t heard it, you’ve seen it. For sure. It was designed in the 50′s and since then it has enjoyed almost constant use by designers, corporations, and Lost Dog telephone pole poster makers alike. Crate & Barrel uses it, Texaco uses it. Jeep, American Apparel, Target, AT&T, Microsoft, American Airlines, Staples, Lufthansa, Nestle, Toyota, Post It, BMW, Sears, Panasonic, 3M, Evian, CVS, JC Penney, North Face, GM, they all use some form of Helvetica in their logo. The Office uses Helvetica in its opening credits. It’s the official typeface of the New York City Subway. It is literally everywhere. I was less than enthusiastic when I learned I’d chosen the mother of all typefaces, mostly because in art school today if you try to use Helvetica in an assignment you’ll often be booed. Literally booed. It’s been used so much and people will argue that at this point it’s sort of difficult to innovate with it. Professors will roll their eyes and say oh Helvetica how original.

But after a week of research and all of a sudden realizing that I couldn’t turn my head without noticing type design and more often than not noticing that the type design is, in fact, Helvetica – I became a firm believer in its perfection. I love this typeface. So I made it into a cake.

Oh hey you’re still reading! That’s great. This one was fun to make. I started by printing the letters, cutting them out, and tracing them onto the cake. If you think I freehanded that mess, you’ve put too much faith in my ability. Also, I’m pretty sure you can’t “freehand” a typeface unless you have a robot hand. Or if you’re, you know, talented.

I’ve got a confession to make. The span of time between the moment this untouched cake came out of the freezer and the moment it was consumed was about a week. I did the cutting and ganooshing in the first couple of days, and then I got busy/I had no idea how to tackle the thing beyond ganoosh. I knew that fondant was not going to work. The letters were too tall and delicate. I put it off long enough and eventually decided to just ice it normally. A nice even coat of turquoise frosting. But then I accidentally stumbled on this awesome drippy effect, and ran with it.

When we finally got around to eating this thing, a full week after I started on it, I completed a different type project, which was to label our futon with its god-given name (actually, roommate Joe-given name).

Joe thinks this futon looks and feels like shit, so it’s a poo-poo futon. This was done in the classic font used by Ikea – Futura.

Anyway, as I mounted the poo poo foo label, James got anxious and so we ate the cake. It was not good. Turns out that you can’t let a cake sit for a week and expect it to please your palette. Everyone was really nice about it, but they didn’t have to be. I wasn’t ashamed. The cake(s) came out nice and that is legitimately all I care about. And it was great to see the reactions and to hear Zach say “I think i’m gonna hold off on that.”

One Response to 24: HelvetiCake

  1. michelle says:

    can you make a comic sans cake that we can throw against the wall in a performance piece