Mike Parker, 'Godfather Of Helvetica,' Dies At 84

You might not even realize how often you see Helvetica. But you have Mike Parker, who died Sunday, to thank for it.
Posted at 2:53 PM, Feb 28, 2014

You probably didn't know his name. But you know his work.

You've been to Target. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Jay Reed)

You might have picked up fresh Post-its.

And maybe you drove there in your Toyota.

And when you did all of these things, in a way, you saw type designer Mike Parker, who died Sunday night. (Via Vimeo / Type Directors Club)

But what he leaves behind is something you'll likely never live without: a big — or sometimes small — font called Helvetica.

It's a font so commonplace most of us probably don't even register it's there. (Via Gary Hustwit / "Helvetica")

Though he’s referred to as the "Godfather of Helvetica," Parker didn't actually invent it. He rather popularized it.

CNN reports the font comes from a Swiss typeface called Neue Haas Grotesk.

What Parker did was recreate the clear typeface for Linotype machines, the industry standard for newspaper and magazine printing at the time. (Via Vimeo / "Linotype: The Film")

That spawned the name change and led to you finding it on your computer.

But that wasn't his initial plan. CNN spoke with Harry Parker, Mike's son, who said his father intended to become a geologist and a painter.

But Harry says his dad was colorblind. "What does a colorblind painter do? Type is black and white so that was the logical direction to go in."

And he found his niche. Parker is reportedly responsible for the development of more than 1,100 typefaces. (Via

And he's the founder of Bitstream, the world's first all-digital type company.

CNN reports Parker died Sunday after suffering a stroke last week. He was also battling Alzheimer's. He was 84 years old.

Fast Co Design pays the typemaster a fitting tribute, writing: "Why would Parker need a stamped stone to tell that he had once lived on this Earth? On every street corner, computer screen, and bookshelf, a thousand fonts scream that he was here, and that he mattered."

Reports say as recently as 2009, he was still working on new typefaces, including this one called Starling. (Via FontShop International Inc)

​But it's the way he spoke about Helvetica that's inspired animations like this one. (Via Vimeo / Positive Pictures)

"It's — oh, it's brilliant when it's done well."