Tuesday, 26 June 2007

helvetica - the movie

Helvetica is an independent feature-length film about a font. Helvetica, derived from Helvetia, the Latin name for Switzerland, was originally developed in 1957 by Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffmann for the Haas Type Foundry in Switzerland. In 1961 it had begun being marketed internationally by Haas’ German parent companies Stempel and Linotype. Helvetica instantly struck a chord with designers and advertising agencies alike and rapidly began to dominate the typographic landscape. This mass appeal and proliferation was further cemented in 1984 when home computers such as the Apple Mactintosh included it on their systems.

The film hops around from the United States to England, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgium and back again showing us just how dominating the font is in all these cityscapes while simultaneously interviewing a tremendous cast of the most influential designers of this century. Such superstars of the graphic design world including Wim Crouwel, Neville Brody, Massimo Vignelli, Rick Poynor, Erik Spiekermann, Stefan Sagmeister, David Carson, Experimental Jetset, to name just a few.

Love or hate the font, it’s incredible just how many companies have embraced Helvetica as part of their own corporate identity, cities and countries into their visual communication systems. Helvetcia’s mark on our global visual culture will endure for a while yet.
Helvetica celebrates it's 50th birthday this year and shows no signs of retiring just yet.

The film was conceived and directed by Gary Hutswit of New York who’s awareness of the font’s saturation in his and million’s of other people’s day-to-day lives left him asking “why?”.
More about the film, director, the typeface, and future screenings on their site helveticafilm.com.

Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. Imagining it would be a testing one’s concentration (screening at Kriterion late last Friday night after a few drinks) I soon found myself wide awake and fascinated. It features a nice mix of the grandfather’s of modern design, the hero’s I grew up with at Art School and those that are leading the way forward. Although I would have liked to see a few more women featured (I think there was only two), it was a pretty stimulating star-studded cast and I just loved seeing and hearing from all these names I know so well.

Whatever you’re opinion of the font itself, if you’re a designer or consumer, you must see this documentary.

Exhibition: 50 Years of Helvetica, April 6, 2007–March 31, 2008 MOMA, 11 West 53 Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues, NYC, USA.
Book: Lars Mueller is a Helvetica devotee. He has published a book, Helvetica: Homage to a Typeface.

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