Saturday, March 08, 2008

Graphic Design Week Post 4: Helvetica

Hi everyone,
They're going to show the movie about the typeface Helvetica tomorrow at noon in TLC 044 if anyone is interested. It is very well done and extremely entertaining, I thought.
See you tonight,


Okay, it’s no secret that I’m a bibliophile. In my last post I mentioned my elaborate mating ritual with each new book I get. Step 4 was to search for a colophon and look at how many types there were and how they interacted. I love typography; I have always been fascinated by it. Growing up I couldn’t understand why there were so many types and why so many of them looked similar. As I studied typography I realized they looked similar only because I wasn’t really seeing the types. Well then I got interested in what the designers said their types did and yada yada yada. I love type.

So when I heard they were going to show a movie on Helvetica at school I was stoked. I asked my prof if I could leave class early that day to attend and he said no, so I skipped.
I figured the film would be one of two things: short and concise, or long and unnecessarily informative. For the latter I was envisioning lines like, “And then when he kerned the 'r' just a little farther away from the 'm,' everything came together and we knew we had a blockbuster. I mean, it was like seeing the light.” I was more hoping for a documentary on the sordid and notorious history of this amazing font and how it came to be, but the movie was none of those three.

Helvetica is a documentary on the history of Graphic Design in the 20th century, focusing on reactions for and against the font Helvetica. If there is a Graphics Designer you have heard of, he or she is probably in here, talking about Helvetica & Them. The movie is beautifully organized. Each section leads to the next perfectly and only after the movie is over do the sections become apparent. Interspersed throughout these hilarious and intelligent interviews are stunning images of Helvetica in the wild. The movie opens with images of Times Square and cuts that with the construction of the title page. If somebody asked me to rate this movie on a scale of how much I liked it, I would have to say this movie is documentary perfection. It is surprising, funny, smooth, and beautiful while still being intelligent, questioning, and in-depth without being overly long or tedious or forced. I must now watch every other film by Gary Hustwit I can get my hands on. That is how good this film is. Oh, and the soundtrack is awesome too.

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