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Helvetica descends from an old line of sans serif fonts known as grotesques. (Not because they were horribly ugly — like many things in typography, the funny name just stuck.) Basic Commercial is a grotesque from the early 1900s that comes across as a rough-hewn version of Helvetica. One popular urban legend holds that New York City subway signage has always been in Helvetica. Not so — Basic Commercial was the main subway font for many years, though it’s now been replaced with Helvetica. (An admirably thorough AIGA article reviews the history.) This is an excellent and underused font.