Nov 29, 2007

What's in a font?

Bruce Willis? Stallone? Will Smith? George Clooney? Forget them! This year’s true cinematic star is Helvetica.

Yes, the typeface.

Last night the good people at Netflix sent me Helvetica, an awesome documentary about said typeface, covering the rise and fall, and recent revival of the ubiquitous font. In its quest to uncover the reasons why Helvetica has been so popular for more than 50 years, the film actually reveals amazing insight into the design world, showcasing how us “creative types” are masters of talking crap and take our work way too seriously.

Of course, the snobby and egotistical nature of designers is front and center, but – as the film points out – the history of Helvetica type is the history of design itself. It’s played a central role in the ups and downs of all the major design movements, particularly post modernism. The film is very efficient in making its point and is never preachy. In fact, the filmmakers made sure to include both sides of the story, interviewing top designers who love it and others who don’t.

Best of all, the film goes beyond telling you the who, what, when, and where… it does an excellent job of telling you the why, a feat that few films achieve and a true sign of good analysis and critique.

Simple. To the point. And it works every time. That’s so Helvetica.

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