The Nutrition Facts label’s designer Burkey Belser tells Quartz that he’s proud to see his original concept, which he designed pro bono, survive relatively unchanged after so much scrutiny. The 68-year-old Washington, DC-based design veteran (also the creator of Energy Guide labels for appliances) says he was barred from proposing new designs for the label, but gave his input on new proposals. “After 20 years, there is not a single thing I would change from the original design,” says Belser.

Belser credits the design’s enduring universal appeal to its simplicity. “We discovered as we developed our designs (about 35 variations) that charts and graphs, for example, were a second higher level of literacy,” he says. He decided to eliminate infographics, symbols, icons and all types of punctuation marks because they slowed readers down.

Belser’s straightforward solution stripped any extraneous flourishes to the basic elements of a layout: lines and fonts. But of all fonts, why Helvetica? “From the designer’s point of view it’s hard to imagine a better workhorse font than the Helvetica set,” explains Belser. ”It is clear and elegant in both its lightest and its boldest iteration. Gill Sans, for example, becomes awkward in its boldest form.”

It also boils down to money: “We chose Helvetica because it was felt that all manufacturers would already own the font,” says Belser referring to the pragmatism of using pre-installed system fonts in Macintosh computers, when the design was first conceived. ”[It would help in] minimizing at least to a small degree the cost of compliance; that is, they wouldn’t have to buy a new font. Simple as that.”

If a completely new design had been introduced, the FDA would have had to spend more on a massive public education campaign. Manufacturers would have had to replace templates, or even possibly redesign boxes and packages, depending on the shape and size of the mandatory nutrition label. Barely a week since the announcement, food label experts are already convening in Washington, DC to discuss how best to comply with the FDA regulations on the Nutrition Facts label.

All big food manufacturers in the US are required to update their packaging by July 26, 2018. Small factories with annual sales of under $10 million are getting an extra year to make changes. The Nutrition Label updates must also be reflected on all food items imported to the US.

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