Monday, April 21, 2008

Helvetica--the movie

Sunday night I watched a documentary about one of the most ubiquitous typefaces (or in computer terms, font) found in the world today.

That type is HELVETICA, a font created by Swiss typographers in the late 1950s and which contributed to a design movement known as Modernism.

You've probably heard of Helvetica and you might even use it on your computer screen. (I would have set this post in Helvetica if Blogger would have allowed it.) But the movie made me realize that Helvetica is EVERYWHERE. As a representation of a modern, clean design many corporations adopted the font in an attempt to present an up-to-date, less stogy view of their identity in the second half of the twentieth century.

Here are some corporate examples--American Airlines, Crate&Barrel.

There are also many government examples--the Internal Revenue Service, for example, or the Environmental Protection Agency.

And Helvetica is used in signage style all over the world.

The movie interviews the people that embraced the spirit of Modernism and celebrate the spirit of "Helveticaness," then talks to those graphic designers in the 1970s and 1980s that reacted against the corporate/government nature of Helvetica and went in a Postmodern direction. (To learn a bit more about Postmodernism, check here.) And finally, it introduced new designers that are embracing the clean lines of Helvetica, but in their own way.

I really liked this movie and I admit that I have developed a new found appreciation of Helvetica, the font. I like its clean lines and I find myself a bit intrigued by the odd void shape within the lowercase "a," one quick way to recognize the font--at least in its lowercase form. I will be spending a lot of time noticing it everywhere.

Check the movie out when you get a chance.



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