In addition to having much looser spacing, Schwartz says, "Neue Haas Grotesk text has a significantly different weight range from the headline version, as a proper Regular for display looks too light as text. But a proper Medium has the opposite problem. It also includes subtle improvements for text sizes, like ink traps, which keep M or W from clogging in text but look awkward and strange in a headline."
Anyone who knows Helvetica is aware that it is meant to have no quirks or eccentricities. So what is the benefit of this version compared to others? "The curves are smoother, for one thing," Schwartz says. "Most importantly the spacing is tighter in the Display size. From what I can tell from his notes, Eduard Hoffmann, the art director at the Haas Typefoundry, who in 1957 developed the face with Max Miedinger, considered very tight spacing to be the key to this face. In those days tight spacing was a relatively new idea."
Since Helvetica has never completely fallen out of favor, Schwartz's version is more restoration than revival. "Helvetica has existed in digital form since digital typesetting was invented," he says, "but nobody has ever gone back to the original typeface as it existed as handset metal type and tried to recreate that." What's more, the original design of Neue Haas Grotesk for handset metal has been compromised several times since it was first renamed Helvetica.
Schwartz lists a litany of Helvetica sins. Early on, regular and Bold weights were altered, changing the relationship between the two weights because of technical limitations related to printing. Furthermore, when the family was adapted for the more advanced process of phototypesetting, "the compromises that had been made were kept as they were, rather than going back to the original, no doubt to keep type set with the two different technologies as consistent as possible." Then, in the 1980s, the Linotype Design Studio redrew the family, which had grown into a huge set of disparate weights and widths, as Neue Helvetica. "The Condensed and Extended demanded squarer curves and bowls, so the normal width got them as well, making the whole set into one extensive, consistent workhorse but sacrificing some of the personality of the original," Schwartz says. "My digital version of Neue Haas Grotesk is an attempt to bring this back to life as authentically as possible."
Helvetica's detractors rail that it is boring, but after spending time working on Neue Haas Grotesk, Schwartz argues that Helvetica "was never intended to be the cold, perfect, rational typeface people believe it is. There is a subtle warmth in the shapes that was lost over the years. When designers use existing digital versions of Helvetica, they are using a compromised version of Miedinger's original drawings and Hoffmann's original ideas, and while I don't think the original should replace what has come after it, I think it's nice to have the choice."