Helvetica screened this week at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, TX where it was very well-received. In a million years it would never have occurred to me to do a documentary on a type font. The film makers somehow came up with the idea of doing a cultural history of the Helvetica font which has become the almost universal default modern font over the past 50 years. Fonts are almost like the air we breathe. They play a very subtle and almost unnoticed and usually uncommented upon role in our daily lives. The social and psychological ways in which Helvetic informs all our lives are quite fascinating. Helvetica is a humorous film that combines a series of interview clips with a variety of often rather quirky graphic font designers with shot of various street signs and corporate logos. The film provides a great deal of insight into the role of the Helvetica font in shaping Western culture. Helvetica is both entertaining and informative in that it provides great insight into a ubiquitous aspect of modernity about which most of us are completely oblivious. I hope that many people get the opportunity to see this unusual and insightful film, because it opens a fascinating window for better understanding our society. Since versions of Helvetica are also the default font on most computers, many of us type in Helvetica constantly without even realizing it. As I walked home from the film, I couldn't help noticing that many of the street signs in Austin appeared to be in Helvetica.
A documentary about typography, graphic design, and global visual culture.
January 27, 2021