What's your Helvetica story?

Joe Pemberton's picture



I saw the SF premier of Helvetica last night and I had to run out during the Q&A to catch the last Bart train, but the question I wanted to ask Gary was, at what point in the making of [[Helvetica]] (the film) did he realize this was not a film about a typeface, but about a commentary about the design and cultural landscape we live in (and that we are products of)? His film is really, really much more than I expected it to be. I thought it was going to be much more academic and historic. It was so much more than that. Helvetica is so much more than a typeface, it's a cultural landmark and Gary Hustwit's film put it into great context.

It was so great to see footage of [[Massimo Vignelli]] extolling Helvetica and the AmericanAirlines mark (that he designed, in Helvetica) put back to back with the Helvetica detractors.

The other question I would ask is: What is your Helvetica story?

In design school I had this fear of Helvetica, everybody did. And then I discovered it accidentally when I fell in love with a [[Bitstream]] face called [[Swiss]] (I was a sophomore; it was an easy mistake.) It was great and I spent a whole semester using it. Then in my career it was easy to ignore Helvetica until BMW's brand guidelines dictated it and again I saw it's merits.

If I were a design instructor, this film would be required material. Kudos again to Gary.

Comments

hrant's picture

Good question.
My case will not be typical, since I never had a formal introduction
to Helvomi... uh, Helvee... uh, Helvetica. In fact it's interesting
that I had any reaction to it at all, since the first time I consciously
thought about its [de]merits I really had a weak grasp of typography.
But over time my feelings haven't changed in essence: starting out
with an intuitive unease about it, I've now elaborated my opinions
with a more studious grasp of what's wrong with it.

BTW, I was also very pleasantly surprised by the movie.
Gary has done an amazing job conveying a balanced but
nonetheless passionate story.

hhp

paul d hunt's picture

did he realize this was not a film about a typeface, but about a commentary about the design and cultural landscape we live in (and that we are products of)?

i'm sure Gary could answer for himself, but from what I got out of his Q&A here in Buffalo, he meant for this film to be a survey of the last 50 years of graphic design, and Helvetica happened to be the vehicle to tell this story. quite ingenious, i think: more interesting than a film only about a single typeface.

sschiada's picture

Looking forward to seeing this at TypeCon. Sounds like it's living up to its hype. Erik Spiekermann spoke at my graduation, Spring '06.

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