It''s not often you see a documentary that is truly interesting (informative yes, interesting no) but I watched the other day and was truly enthralled. Helvetica. I know what you are thinking, a documentary about a typeface, must be about as sexy as watching paint dry. You are wrong.
It was a really insightful look at not so much the type face itself (although it's history is interesting) but the way that the world is made up of two kinds of designers, those who love Helvetica and those who hate it. I was really amazed that Helvetica, like so many things in life, is so totally pervasive but unnoticed until someone points it out to you. One line described Helvetica as "the perfume of the city". It is also as timeless as some of the works done with it, for example Massimo Vignelli's American Airlines logo done in 1966 and unchanged today.
While the movie is good, the bonus materials (which last longer than the movie itself) has excerpts and lengthy interviews with a who's who of legendary graphic designers. I loved seeing them in their studios and, in the outtakes, really open and unfiltered. Paula Sher made the comment that illustrated how silly the music business is by pointing out Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder both were granted cover approval for their albums. It was also fun to see people like Hermann Zapf, whose dingbats I had been using forever. He told the story of how Palatino took 8 years to develop and was inspired by architecture in Florence. Contrast that with today''s ''font of the month club'' approach to not only packaging and other temporary venues, but to corporate ID as well.
There are many of the "story behind the project" revelations that I love, as well as some really great historical looks at traditional (read not on a computer) type setting and graphic design methods and tools. I loved the comment in one of the interviews that type isn't art, it's what you do with the white space between it that shows the true genius. I think that anyone who works in a creative field (not just with type) would enjoy the movie, and especially the bonus materials on the DVD.'