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Thoughts on seeing Helvetica

Last night, I was fortunate enough to see the new documentary film Helvetica. It’s an exploration of the typeface and how it’s been used.

My thoughts after seeing the film:

  • Man, I think I do like Helvetica
  • Rick Poynor might be the most well-spoken man ever
  • Hot damn, Michael Bierut is funny… he might have the most screen time in the whole film
  • Wow, Erik Spiekermann is kinduva prick
  • Wow, David Carson is full of himself
  • Hey! I know two people featured in the movie! (Michael Bierut and Jonathan Hoefler)
  • Wow, I’ve never heard of this Mike Parker guy, but I *love* his energy… he’s a total geek for type!
  • Matthew Carter seems genuinely cool

In all, it’s a good flick. Having worked in design for so long, and being such a nerd, my experience will be different than, well, someone walking off the street. It’s gorgeously shot (on DV, by the guy who shot Borat), and the designers (interviewees) are treated lovingly.

In the Q&A after the film, the director, Gary Hustwit, said something that was true that surprised me. He couldn’t think of any documentary film ever made about graphic design. And I think he was right. The closest I can think are some of the short films on design that the Eames made. And it’s bizarre and a shame that some of these brilliant influential creators (Vignelli, Matthew Carter, even that prick Spiekermann) have never been captured before. And shameful that there’s no doc chronicling the lives and expeirences of folks like Paul Rand and Saul Bass. As this film proves, designers are compelling subjects for doc film — they’re passionate, engaged, and have great things to look at.

  1. I agree that graphic design is sorely neglected by filmmakers. I’m compiling tons of material with the thought of doing a book, but a documentary would be terrific. Someone should film the last group of designers still alive who art directed during the golden age of magazines.
    And it’s all connected: the art directors, the photographers and illustrators they hired, the breakthroughs in printing – it would look great on film.

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