Helvetica


Yes, I recognize the irony of the title, having serifs and all.  Turns out it turned 50 three years ago, and someone made a movie about it.

The worst part of sitting through this film is that I find myself staring at the world’s typefaces, even while I’m driving.  “Wow, yes, TOYOTA really is in…”  screeeeeech!  (Full disclosure: so is, “Jeep.”)  The prices at King Sooper: yes.  The aisle information: no.  The Space Shuttle: yes.  The London Underground: no.

You have to wade through a certain amount of pretentious twaddle, designers saying things like, “Helvetica is sort of the socialism of fonts, because it’s out there, and people can do whatever they want with it,” which would seem to make it the polar opposite of socialism.  It would also seem to be the complete opposite of what Helvetica turned into, so the conclusion is correct even if the reasoning is woolly-headed.

In return, you get a real sense of why Helvetica took over the world:

There was eventually a rebellion, a mad thrashing about that led to little more than chaos.  In the end, the designers surrendered.  And why not?