Wednesday, August 27, 2008


I watched this movie about the font "Helvetica." Good entertainment. Lots of parallels to poetry. The weird dream of a font that is transparent.

Anyway, here's a great (as in unintentionally insightful) by Massimo Vignelli, the guy who designed the NYC subway signs and maps:

"The life of a designer is a life of fight. Fight against the ugliness. Just like doctor fights against disease. For us, the visual disease is what we have around and what we try to do is to cure it somehow, with design."


Blogger Amish Trivedi said...

And that's why us uggos are having such a rough time in this world :)

12:27 PM  
Blogger Amish Trivedi said...

But seriously, that actually is pretty interesting. Is it a documentary on the font?

12:31 PM  
Blogger Johannes said...

Yes, it's a documentary on the font.

Yes, I felt targeted as a sometime resident who used the subway system daily...

6:56 PM  
Blogger AB said...

All the design students at my school watch this film and then they hate helvitica. It appears to be the #1 strongly held opinion.

8:57 PM  
Blogger Fran├žois Luong said...

The production artists I work with don't use the font, but really like it. The problem being, there are so many versions of it (all named Helvetica) coming from different foundries and they all come bundled with different programs, meaning that using one variant of Helvetica in Illustrator might conflict with the version in a Corel program.

9:49 AM  
Blogger Max said...

I really liked this documentary. I didn't leave with a hatred of helvetica, but rather a much broader awareness of how design pervades daily life. Where there is signage, there is helvetica. Pretty staggering how widely used the font is.

I think what it comes down to is whether, as a designer, you value novelty (the constant introduction of new ideas) or clarity/longevity. It seems to me that the trade-off is always going to be a varying level of genericness (with something like helvetica representing the extremely generic ... barring, of course, any novel uses of the font itself).

As always, I would imagine a font should serve the design, and not the other way around. It's not helvetica that's bad, it's how the font is sometimes used.

1:24 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...

I agree. I thought it was pretty fascinating. The Romantic rhetoric of Carson etc was not all that convincing either. Part of what made it fascinating was the claims everyone made. Just as looney as the claims poets make.

8:12 AM  
Blogger Max said...

On a somewhat related note, there is a ridiculous amount of signage in Korea. It seems like in the US, the architectural design of a building will more often than not do the work of signage. It's quite easy to tell what is a grocery store, or what is a department store. Here, the grocery store, electronics store, home supplies store, etc maybe stacked on top of one another in a huge, anonymous looking multistory building. So they just plaster the outside of it with really colorful and vibrant signage.

1:54 PM  
Blogger becca said...

I left that movie with an OCD need to spot Helvetica EVERYWHERE I WENT. Ugh. That's what made me hate Helvetica, not the red scare of the film.

3:00 PM  

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