I used to make the common mistake of using multiple fonts in a document when so many first became available. (cringe) I remember my first encounter with Helvetica back in 1988: the Director of Admissions sat at my desk and rhapsodized about the clean lines, sans serif, readability, attractiveness, etc. etc. I don’t fuss with fonts much with blogging, but with other documents I spend time clicking, trying different fonts, judging their appeal. I will not use Times New Roman. Comic Sans seems too childish, a good choice only if you’re typing a thank you note from a six month old.
Using Netflix’s Watch Instantly, I enjoyed Gary Hustwit’s documentary, Helvetica. The 80 minute film gives the history of the font designed by Max Miedinger in 1957 in Switzerland. You meet two dozen graphic designers, who discuss their use or non-use of Helvetica.
The parts I enjoyed the most were the three-minute sequences of signs –street signs, business signs, slogans on clothes, billboards, civic signs– which were interspersed between the interviews with the designers. Helvetica is truly ubiquitous. Even the IRS tax forms are printed with it! Here are some tidbits I scribbled down as I watched:
~ “Creating order is typology.”
~ the DNA of letter forms (these designers are passionate; but I loved that turn of phrase)
~ “Graphic designers can’t see historical movies because the fonts are always wrong.”
~ If you are heavy in the middle you wouldn’t wear tight tee shirts. Helvetica is heavy in the middle and needs lots of white space around it.
~ ABH = anything but Helvetica
~ Helvetica came out of modernism. Grunge typography came out of postmodernism. Designers today are swinging back to Helvetica but are using it in unique or more creative ways.
Now, it was an enjoyable DVD for a cold, January Sunday afternoon while my husband napped, but I wouldn’t spend money to watch it. There was a sprinkling of salty language and a few salty images (especially in the grunge section.) If you get off on graphic design and fonts, you may enjoy it.
What is your favorite font?