Neue Haas Unica: A cultural fit for C&G Partners

To celebrate its tenth birthday, design firm C&G Partners adopted a fresh working philosophy, and a new typographic voice.  While searching for a design that could reflect its own interest in storytelling, the studio came across Neue Haas Unica. Drawn to the history of this ‘lost’ typeface and its unique blend of Helvetica and Univers, C&G Partners chose it as the cornerstone of its new identity.

“Unica was an early favorite for us,” says co-founder Jonathan Alger. “We’re typography nerds here, and we were fascinated by the story and the idea of forensic detective work recovering a lost treasure, and dusting it off and finishing it for a modern eye.”

Designed in 1980, the original Unica blended elements of Helvetica and Univers, but fell out of favor as the digital demands on typefaces increased, and the original drawings of the design were lost. In 2015, Monotype designer Toshi Omagari and Dan Rhatigan uncovered the original production materials, and used them to resurrect this underused and underappreciated design – updating it with everything it needed for digital use along the way.

It’s precisely this narrative that first drew the firm to Neue Haas Unica, as well as its balanced mixture of two typefaces that many of its clients already use.

“We all fell in love with Neue Haas Unica for different reasons,” adds Alger. “I very much like the idea that Unica carries a lot of the associations that one would have with Helvetica. Or Univers. Or Akzidenz,” he says.

Not just an essential part of its rebrand, the typeface marks the introduction of a new focus for the firm, which plans to turn its attention to designing for culture, in all its many forms. With a new mission statement, the studio needed to replace Derek Italic – the typeface it previously used across its branding, which was increasingly lacking the digital support required.

Their new identity needed to speak loud and clear about their business, with a typeface that could work confidently across everything from the studio’s logotype, to digital, print, environmental usage and business communications. But above and beyond Neue Haas Unica’s legibility and breadth of use, it resonated with C&G Partners for deeper reasons.

If you look carefully and thoughtfully at it, you see that it’s a fascinating hybrid but also a cold case resurrection

“It makes you look twice, and see something underneath the surface,” says Alger who lists the upper and lowercase J of the design among his favorite letterforms – for their “surprising” descenders. “It’s not what you think at first.”

“I thought it felt very calm and soothing,” adds partner Maya Kopytman. “It gave me pleasure to read our long proposals, and I hope our clients will be inclined to read them with more of a zen quality.”

We wanted a typeface that would reward people for doing a little of their own detective work, and have a story behind it that people could remember even if they aren’t a type nerd

“It solves a few grudges that I had against Helvetica, and gives this space and even texture. It’s authentic and relevant to today.” Neue Haas Unica also spoke to the spirit of the firm’s daily work, which frequently revolves around ideas of heritage and its relationship with contemporary design.

C&G Partners’ projects are often about restoration, renovation or recreation, and the studio regularly works closely with organizations needing to ensure their history remains relevant to contemporary society – an obvious link to the typeface’s own heritage.

“We’re very often in that act of balancing the old with the new, and that’s another thing that appealed to us about Neue Haas Unica,” says Alger. “If you look carefully and thoughtfully at it, you see that it’s a fascinating hybrid but also a cold case resurrection.”

Alger says using Neue Haas Unica has even prompted a whole set of new office conversations, with the firm’s non-graphic designers feeling encouraged to talk type – a testament to the design’s universal appeal.

“We wanted a typeface that would reward people for doing a little of their own detective work, and have a story behind it that people could remember even if they aren’t a type nerd,” he says.