The Designer’s Notebook

A Movie about a font – Helvetica: The Movie

Last night we drove up to Calgary (Brian & Sonya) to see the screening of “ Helvetica: The Movie” at The Uptown Theatre, and event sponsored by the GDC South and Veer. All I can say is… “Wow”. You might ask why make a movie about a font and how in the world could you fill out an hour and a half?

Well, consider that Helvetica is one of the most the most common typefaces on the planet. It’s likely on the machine you are sitting at right now. Then consider that it was designed in 1957 at the height of the post-war modernist movement. Then consider that it has be used, abused overused, hated, loved and accepted by designers for 50 years. Some designers call it “air”.

It was designed by a Swiss type foundry called “Haas” and was originally called “Neue Haas Grotesk” (catchy!) but was re-named “Helvetica” in 1960–a name derived from the latin name for Switzerland. It was a font that completely changed graphic Design in the 50’s and 60’s–so completely that the prevailing style almost became Helvetica. Modern corporate identity became Helvetica. Helvetica was perfect.

It was brilliant to listen to the interviews with major designers from that era, and from present day talking about a little swiss font’s affect on their careers. The concept of modern identity systems coming out of Helvetica’s creation is amazing enough, but if you start looking around you, you’ll be surprised how much Helvetica is around you. It is indeed air.

We visited with colleagues at IdeaMarket and tried to find the gang from Focus Design, and thanks goes to Veer for sponsoring the HD projector and giving the freebie notebooks!

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