Published at: June 13, 2007, 4:10 p.m. CST by merrick
Hey, all. Capone in Chicago here. I've been excited to see this film since I read about its world premiere this year at SXSW. Since word of this doc reached the rest of this world, I've had Chicago-area designers and others in publishing and graphic design write and call, asking if I knew when it was opening in the area. Well, Chicagoans, the wait is over thanks to the eager-to-please Gene Siskel Film Center (http://www.siskelfilmceneter.com), which begins a weeklong engagement of the film on Friday. This thing is going to sell out fast people. I literally know dozens of people organizing groups of friends to go see this, so buy your tickets early and don't be late.
More than simply a documentary about the history of the world's most popular font and its many uses over the course of its 50-year history, HELVETICA is a fascinating exploration of design trends that the font inspired with both its success as an all-purpose font and its eventual overuse. And trust me when I say, the only thing funnier than listening to graphic designers gush lovingly about fonts is hearing the bitch about them as if the fonts are to blame for being popular. And the only thing I enjoy more than a doc about a subject I'm somewhat familiar with, is watching one on a topic I know next to nothing about.
Created in a simple design studio in Switzerland, the Helvetica font quickly becomes the go-to typeface for corporations looking to move into the more modern world of streamlined advertising and logo design. It was the font of professionals, but it quickly became the people's font when desktop publishing became the way of design (and Apple computers included it as part of its standard font package with all home computers. Many more modern-thinking design firms adopted an anything-but-Helvetica policy as way of getting away from corporate identities and looks for their work.
The film goes into a great deal of detail examining Helvetica's many nuances and its appeal as possibly the world's most perfect font. But it's equally intriguing to watch today's young designers incorporate it into designs that are clearly meant to be edgy and rebellious. Graphic artists from around the world (whose names mean nothing to me, but whose font creations and work I'm very familiar with) speak at length about how the font changed the face of advertising and logo design forever.
HELVETICA is an informative, humorous, and entertaining work that opened my eyes to pieces of the world I never really noticed before. Suddenly every e-mail, movie poster, book cover, and sign looks a little different to me. Who knew that the Crate & Barrel/American Airlines/New York City Subway font was so important? Now, I do.
Oh, one final programming note: Director Gary Hustwit will be on hand for both Friday performances to answer all your questions. Now go!