Saturday, July 21, 2012

"Helvetica" (2007)

Elizabeth and I watched this documentary kind of randomly the other night, and it turned out to be amazing. It's definitely an interesting story. Apparently, Helvetica is a pretty ubiquitous typeface in the design world. This has never affected me, insofar as I have no formal training in design, the design work I've done has always mandated fonts as per the brand's requirement, and, as a writer, I've rarely found sans serif fonts to be useful. So it was very cool to experience this typeface from a radically different point of view, and realize just how many brands use Helvetica - the "neutral" font - to send their messages.

But I think the most fascinating part was just to watch the interviews with typeface designers. They were all so passionate about type design! It was incredible. They had such wild and varied opinions about something that might seem so boring, fonts. It gave me a whole new appreciation for the little characters I type with. Someone, at some point, designed every microscopic element of these characters.

And the reality is, typefaces really do convey something. Apparently, a big part of the reason Helvetica was so widely adopted is because it was "neutral" - because, in short, it didn't say anything and so couldn't interfere with the message of the words it was conveying. But that's not really true, and it seems like more modern designers are realizing that. I've always kind of felt that way. When I'm writing stories, sometimes I write them in Times New Roman, sometimes in Garamond, sometimes even in Arial (which, apparently, is Microsoft's perversion of Helvetica). The medium, as it were, is the message.

Anyway, it's a really great documentary, and not terribly long, so you should probably watch it. I promise, it's worth it!



  1. I always change the default font to Comic Sans before I let somebody borrow my Kindle.

  2. That sounds like a recurring nightmare of mine.