Name: Neue Haas Unica
Type: Retail typeface
Publisher: Linotype (Monotype)
Release year: 2015
Purchase links: MyFonts
Neue Haas Unica is a revival of Haas Unica, a neogrotesque typeface that was originally released in 1980.
The Haas Type Foundry which had acquired Deberny & Peignot, the copyright holders of Helvetica and Univers respectively, was set to release a new version of Helvetica for the then new era of electronic phototypesetting. The task was given to the three men, André Gürtler, Erich Gschwind, and Christian Mengelt, who formed Team ’77. After extensive research on the neogrotesques of the time, especially Univers and Helvetica, the team devised a new typeface called Unica whose design intention of combining the two is perfectly captured in the name. The research document titled From Helvetica to Haas Unica (https://www.flickr.com/photos/stewf/galleries/72157644553307792/) is a wonderful piece of design documentation and well worth a read.
Unica was released in 1980, though it didn’t enjoy much success back in the day. Common criticism was that it was too close to the two typefaces that inspired it; in my view of the densely crowded neogrotesque genre of today, the point sounds dated. One prominent use case of the time was Octavo magazine that were published between 1985–92. The digital version was available from Scangraphic which was taken down after a copyright dispute with Linotype which had acquired Haas. Linotype hadn’t touched Unica for a long time, since it had Helvetica and Univers, and did not have much commercial interest in the typeface.
On a visit at the Linotype archive near Frankfurt one day, I stumbled upon a large pack of drawings and negative masters of Unica. I immediately made a proposal to revive the forgotten gem that was perhaps not given a fair chance to prove its worth yet. I proposed a collaboration with the Team ’77 members, especially Gürtler, which regrettably did not come to fruition. I gave everything I got to bring Unica to the new standard and make it worthy of digital Helvetica 2.0. The updates are all subtle yet quite a few, except for major additions like small caps, Greek, and Cyrillic. The Greek won the Granshan Type Competition’s 1st prize in Greek typeface design in 2015.
Even though this page is about my Neue version, it would be only fair if I mentioned Unica ’77 (https://lineto.com/typefaces/unica77), the other contemporary Haas Unica revival from Lineto. It was designed by Christian Mengelt, one of Team ’77 members. I am not here to compare or comment on the differences, but it does have an impressive set of glyphs and monospaced subfamily. I recommend that you do check that out too.