One of the most popular fonts in the world, Helvetica, is getting its first major overhaul in several decades. Indeed, as Gizmodo points out, the last time the font was upgraded was back in 1983 with the "Neue Helvetica" update.
Now, the font is called "Helvetica Now," a name Monotype (the company responsible for licensing it) hopes will act as a "new chapter" in the story of the "best-known typeface" of all time. While those are some pretty bold claims, Helvetica Now does aim to solve some of the problems its predecessor faced in the modern world.
I'm no font history expert myself, but Gizmodo claims that previous versions of Helvetica had issues with kerning (letter spacing) and legibility on smaller screens, problems that have become all the more pronounced now with the rise of consumer smartphones and tablets. Monotype's solution with Helvetica Now is to provide editors, writers, and brands with three main font size variants: Helvetica Now Micro, Text, and Display.
Display is intended for headlines, advertisements, and other areas where bigger, more "in-your-face" text is ideal. Helvetica Now Text is meant for just about anything else - articles, FAQ pages, forums, you name it. Micro, as the name suggests, is useful in the same areas as Text, but on smaller screens.
If you thought designing new versions of existing fonts was a simple process, think again. Monotype says Helvetica Now is the result of roughly five years of research and collaborative development among "dozens" of designers and engineers within the Monotype Studio Foundry.
If you want to toy around with the fruits of all that labor for yourself, you have two main options as an ordinary user: One, you can get a free, downloadable version of Helvetica Now Display Black by handing over some basic information to Monotype (such as your name, job title, and email address).
Alternatively, you can visit Monotype's Helvetica Now reveal page and interact with the font directly - the page is essentially a giant text sandbox that you can edit to your heart's content.