Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fonts: The Movie

  • Matt Zoller Seitz reviews the documentary Helvetica in The New York Times.
Anxiously awaiting Helvetica II: Courier's Revenge, as well as its shot-back-to-back sequel Helvetica III: Typesetter's Luck. I smell franchise.
Overlong but fascinating, Mr. Hustwit’s documentary posits Helvetica — a sans-serif typeface developed in 1957 at the Haas Foundry in Munchenstein, Switzerland — as an emblem of the machine age, a harbinger of globalization and an ally of modern art’s impulse toward innovation, simplicity and abstraction. Its versatility is showcased in shots of storefronts, street signs, public transportation systems, government forms, advertisements and newspaper vending boxes.

The film’s provocative, lively interviews with graphic designers and theorists — including Massimo Vignelli, who created directional signs for the New York City subway system, and David Carson, author of “The End of Print” — assess Helvetica’s impact on human life and thought. Some praise it as a conceptual breakthrough; others blast it as a lowest-common-denominator typeface whose use both reflects and perpetuates conformity.

No comments: