January 23, 2008
Reviewer: Henry Leineweber
Rating (out of 5): ****
"Helvetica is like air. It's instantly recognizable and forgettable." These words are spoken fairly early in Helvetica, a surprisingly fascinating documentary about, of all things, typefaces. Specifically, the Helvetica typeface which was first introduced to graphic designers in the 1960s and has since become a worldwide phenomenon. From its roots in classical Danish printer's workshops, to the explosion of '60s mod culture, to its eventual adoption by corporate and government public-relations teams, I found myself realizing that I see the Helvetica typeface (don't call it a font) dozens of times per day without ever noticing it.
Gary Hustwit's documentary is peppered with these sort of “Ah-ha” moments. The engrossing film is propelled along by solid interviews with graphic designers and typographers, and the film moves at a fairly brisk pace, coming in at just under 80 minutes. DVD extras include extended interviews with all the experts that appear in the film, and while I found some to be definitely more interesting than others, all those appearing on camera contribute to the narrative of the film.
Helvetica is a short, sweet, and to-the-point documentary, and a great viewing experience. As an added bonus, you will no doubt start to find yourself spotting the typeface in the most unexpected places.
Posted by cphillips at January 23, 2008 11:32 AM