Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Helvetica

Posted By on Wed, Feb 20, 2008 at 4:00 AM

I heard about Helvetica last year from a friend of mine who’s a graphic designer in New York—he was excited about it even before it came out. Since then, two more graphic designer friends of mine, including Jackie at the Bohemian, have sang its praises. I finally watched it last night, and no matter what your line of work or your level of interest in design, I hereby and totally recommend it.A film about a font might sound pretty dull. It’s not. Through interviews with over 20 design experts and with lots of montages revealing Helvetica’s omnipresent usage, the film charts the 50-year life of the most popular font in the world. You go to the factory where Helvetica was born, you are shown why it works, scientifically, as the perfect font, and you drink in its massive cultural impact.The best part is that just when you start getting sick of hearing how incredible and wonderful Helvetica is, the film brings on the haters—and they’re just as convincing. Helvetica is the font of nothing, they say; it represents conformity and blankness and corporate culture. One graphic designer goes so far as to blame Helvetica for the Vietnam war.Watching this film will change the way you look at the world, if even only for a day or two. The interviews are astounding; it’s fascinating what kinds of wild corollaries emerge when professionals start talking about their craft. Helvetica is full of those moments: incredible insight into something that most of us rarely, if ever, think about at all.It’s got a great soundtrack, too, courtesy of these guys.

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