Haim, the Typeface

Design: Yaakov Haim Levitt (Jan Lewitt), 1930s

Somehow, when you look at it, you get the idea that the Hebrew typeface known as Haim was designed at some point in late 1967, and not a moment earlier. Robust and aggressive, lordly and conquering, superbly built, filled with itself and aware of its power, it's the perfect choice for words like "security," "war" or "not one inch."

But no. This typeface, known to designers as "fat Haim" (as opposed to its younger sister, "thin Haim," which came later), was designed at the beginning of the 1930s in Warsaw by Yaakov Haim Levitt in the spirit of the Bauhaus, and it wrought a revolution in the concept of Hebrew script, which until then was round and ostentatious. The clean, square design defied and challenged what preceded it - biblical, decorative and seraphic freight that was loaded agonizingly on the thin shoulders of the Hebrew letters that returned from Europe to Palestine.

The designers of the state-in-the-making found it difficult to resist the overt advantages of the young font, which stood out and was easy to use, and within a short time Haim captured the bastions of propaganda and marketing and was splashed in black and red ink across every political poster, wall poster, daily newspaper or ad for a new play produced by the national theater.

In the more than 70 years since then, hundreds of new Hebrew fonts have been designed, but the major newspapers and the election campaigns still find it hard to take their leave of good old Haim. Somehow, no better font has yet been devised to write "The rage and the horror," "In cold blood" and "Terrorism is back."