Monday, April 20, 2009

Helvetica: The Movie

Helvetica was developed in 1957 at the Haas type foundry of Münchenstein, Switzerland. The aim was to create a neutral typeface with great clarity and no intrinsic meaning in its form, to be used on a wide variety of signage.

In the 1960s Helvetica was introduced to the US by Linotype. It was an instant success with designers, and many companies adopted it as their primary typeface. Its later adoption in 1984 as the default typeface on the Apple Macintosh computer reinforced its hegemony.

When I discovered that a movie was being made about Helvetica I was intrigued, but not enough to visit a cinema to watch it. When I saw it was available to rent on Blu-ray DVD, i put it on my reserve list.

If you love type, it's a pleasant enough way to spend 80 minutes. Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones are informed and passionate and Erik Spiekermann is always good value for money, but I found a couple of the participant's opinions plain 'arty-farty'. In fact, the film is remarkably like the typeface it is about, clean, well-constructed, but ultimately bland and a trifle overated.


AaB said...

I agree in all cases, but I I can forgive it being 'overated' as we see so few documentaries of this kind produced, well done Gary.
I went to see Objectivied last week, Gary Hustwit's new documentary about Product / Industrial design and rubbed shoulders with Jonathan Ive and Marc Newson. Objectivied is made it exactly the same way as Helvetica, albeit a different cast and visual stimuli but it is equally worth seeing.

brett jordan said...

was the 'all cases' phrase intentional mr butler?

AaB said...