Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Graphic designers make the best ______.

Three nights ago I rented Helventica (2007), a documentary on - you guessed it, the Helventica font that is the default type on Macs everywhere. Including this one. Now, I'm lazy. But I'm also, in theory, creative. So I rented it (look at me, I thought to myself, I'm so artistically sensitive, renting a movie on something so diminutive. I can't believe there are thugs who aren't interested in learning where their type was born, who the forefathers of Helvetica were, how they slaved in their little Swiss sweatshops until they got that "A" just right.) I thought this, and then did everything possible to put off watching Helvetica for three days. Gossip Girl, America's Next Top Model, even an episode of a reality show that I can only hope wasn't called "I'm Fifteen and Knocked Up" all beat out Helvetica. Last night the due date for the movie was imminent, so I sighed and resigned myself to being an "intellectual" for a few hours (or at least winning back a few of the braincells I lost with Gossip Girl).

Here are some quotes from prominent graphic designers featured in the movie, about how the presentation of something (in this case, the type) affects the message. These quotes, sometimes contradictory, could easily be applied the the creative process in general, and writing specifically. Stay sharp!

-> In a sense [typography] is like music; it's not the notes it's the space you put between the notes that make it music.

-> The meaning is in the content of the text, not of the typeface.

-> The way something is presented will affect how you react to it.

-> Don't confuse legibility with communication.

was ok. It was cute to see the graphic designers get all huffy and excited about the influence and dominance of Helvetica. Clearly, they'd thought about this A LOT. It's like seeing Nascar fans meet Carl Edwards, or tweens and Miley Citrus. You're not quite sure what's going on in their heads, but you're happy they're happy.

Review in the New York Times, here.

Helvetica trailer:


janb said...

Good article! It reminds me of the course in medical transcription that made a mountain out of, and went on and on about, rules such as whether or not there was a comma before 'and' in two complete sentences connected by that 'and.' I guess it's nice to be an important expert on something.... So was the movie worth it? Did it grow back the brain cells you lost watching the reality shows?

Amy said...

I was actually interviewed for that documentary back in '98 to provide the High_School_Yearbook_Editor perspective. I think they cut me out because I was more interested in the uniform 1 pica spacing between every page element. Or maybe it was my insistence on wearing a certain gray/purple X-Files baseball cap on camera. Oh well.

Eden From Sweden said...

That is awesome! Both being interviewed and trying to pull off an x-files cap. aesthetically please THIS, mofos!