"Helvetica:" The Documentary. Creative inspiration for designers on the font of all fonts

by fontspace

Helvetica is no longer just a typeface for your convenient use, it's a universal symbol, divine mechanical calligraphy, typographic nirvana, the most popular lettering style for public communication. It's the designer font of designer fonts, and if you want to tap into it's essence, and reach deep into the magic that makes it so successful, we recommend a fascinating film. 

Helvetica is a brilliant documentary that discusses the essence of creation and communication through typography. It centers around the proliferation of one typeface and it's power to change the global marketing design language through the 50's, 60's, 70's and continuing on towards the present. The film does a great job of presenting the creative steps that brought about Helvetica, and it places it on a historical time-line that illustrates the evolution of international graphic design in the 20th century. Including thoughtful interviews of some of the design industry's biggest names, such as Erik Spiekermann, Matthew Carter, Massimo Vignelli, Wim Crouwel, Hermann Zapf, Neville Brody, and many others, the film seeks to capture the role of this typeface in the history of design, as well as its subsequent influence.

In the late 1950s, the world of European design saw a renaissance of older sans-serif typefaces such as the German face Akzidenz Grotesk. In 1957, the director of the Haas Type Foundry, Edüard Hoffmann, commissioned Max Miedinger, a freelance designer, to draw an updated version of a sans-serif typeface for licensing. The result was Helvetica, which out of the gate was originally named Neue Haas Grotesk. Derived from the Latin word for Switzerland, Helvetia, inspired the typeface's new name which stuck and essentially proved more fitting for international business with the fresh font being marketed globally since 1961. 

Thanks to a popularity of Swiss design in the 60s, and Helvetica's attributes of legibility, balance and clarity; it quickly appeared in corporate logos, international public transit signage, fine art usage, package design and publications. The font's appearance in home computer systems such as the Apple's 1984 Macintosh solidified it's staying power and place in the public consciousness. The font's impact on the design world is so potent that in 2007 the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan displayed an exhibition titled "50 Years of Helvetica."

Helvetica is a production of Swiss Dots, in association with Veer, and was first released in March 2007. It's available online and on DVD. Contact us to share your take on this ubiquitous font and hit up our FORUM to continue this productive and inspiring discussion.