Documentary Monday~~Helvetica

TitleHelvetica

Year–2007

Awards–Nominated for the Truer Than Fiction Award at the Independent Spirit Awards, 2008

Summary–Experts in the field of typography and graphic design discuss the history and eventual dominance of the Helvetica typeface.

My Thoughts–I hope all those words I used in the summary were right.  This documentary was filled with so much terminology and information that I was only halfway familiar with, so I might not have used it all correctly 🙂

I do an awful lot of reading throughout a typical day, but I almost never think about the typeface I am seeing at any given moment.  The only time I have ever really thought about it was at Amber’s amazing program during Phoenix Rising (woohoo go Amber!!).  This documentary was really fascinating to me because I guess I had never thought about the fact that people have to “make” fonts.  I think my favorite part of the whole thing was when someone talked about their process for creating a new typeface.  He said that he would start with the “h” because it has height and a whole bunch of other important characteristics that I can’t quite remember.  Then he would move on to a letter like “o” that had the rounded element and see how they looked next to each other.  So cool!

I also really loved how they kept showing numerous street signs and ads and everything else under the sun in little montages that all used Helvetica.  I see it every day in things like Target, Energizer, and Gap, but I would never really have recognized it until now.

The film talks about how Helvetica is like air or off-white paint; you don’t really notice that it’s there but it does the perfect job that it is supposed to.  There is a bit about how the typeface originated in Switzerland and literally means “the Swiss” typeface.  Then it goes on to discuss how views of Helvetica have changed over the years.

This is a topic that I didn’t know very much about and certainly don’t think about very often, so I learned a lot while watching.  Now I am watching TV and I am totally seeing it pop up all over the commercials!

Final Verdict–If you are a nerdgirl (or nerdboy) you will appreciate this in depth look at a simple (or is it?) typeface.

Jen

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2 Responses to “Documentary Monday~~Helvetica”


  1. 1 Diana May 23, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    I watched this a while ago, or I should say that I tried to watch it. Not sure if I was bored by it or if I was tired that day (maybe a combo of both?), but I fell asleep in the middle of this documentary. It was neat to see how much Helvetica is used in the world, but this film didn’t hold my interest as much as I’d hoped it would.

    I recently saw Typhoid Mary and really enjoyed it. I didn’t know much about her, and your review last week piqued my interest, so thanks! I also have Jesus Camp on hold at the library. I’m kinda scared to watch it. 😛

  2. 2 ngtjennifer May 24, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Yea! Diana, I am so glad that you are watching some of the documentaries! I would say that for Jesus Camp, make sure you have a pillow sitting next to you that you can occasionally scream into 🙂 You might also want to watch something really happy right afterwards, like a Disney princess movie.

    I can totally understand how you could fall asleep during Helvetica. If you were already tired, it doesn’t have a lot of action to keep you interested. It’s hard to watch a documentary of people talking the whole time if you are tired. I also thought it could have been shorter, because by the end of it I thought some of the people were just repeating what others had said.


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