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Western Union Mailgram

Contributed by Ian Lanius on Dec 4th, 2016. Artwork published in .
    20161201_145153.jpg
    Photo: Ian Lanius. License: All Rights Reserved.

    A Mailgram is a type of telegraphic message which is transmitted electronically from the sender to a post office and then printed and delivered to the recipient via postal means. Western Union invented the Mailgram in 1970. The service was discontinued in 2006. [Wikipedia]

    Typefaces

    • Kabel Black
    • Helvetica

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    1 Comment on “Western Union Mailgram”

    1. Dec 4th, 2016  2:50 pm

      Initially, the Mailgram header didn’t use Kabel Black, but Helvetica: first blue against light blue (1973), then against white, with borders (1977). By June 1978, this color combination had been reversed. This version was still in use in April 1981. By 1985, as documented by Ian’s image, the service had been rebranded in Kabel Black, also replacing the previous Western Union logo, while maintaining the color combo. This design remained in use at least until 1989.

      Images by Stamps Joann (1973), Arab American National Archives (1977), Kim Berry (1978), Jack Cecchini (1987)

      I bet that many design students today would think the version in Kabel Black predated the ones in “timeless” Helvetica, and not the other way around. Kabel Black, originally released in 1929, is very much a 1970s typeface (read more about Kabel’s history in Ferdinand Ulrich’s excellent article for FontShop). Helvetica has always been popular since its release in the late 1950s, but it is essentially a child of the 1960s. Over the years, the Swiss Grotesk has been specified for such a great number of brands — it’s refreshing to see an example from pre-digital times where it had to make way for something else.

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