On the occasion of Helvetica's NYC premiere tonight, Michael Bierut remembers a time when no one knew anything about type or fonts except for designers and typesetters. "[Today] we live in a world where any person in any cubicle in the world can pick between Arial and Trebuchet and Chalkboard whenever they want, risk free, copyfitting tables be damned, and where a film about a typeface actually stands a chance of enjoying some small measure of popular success."
Exhibit on Helvetica (the font, not the film) opens tomorow at the MoMA and will be available for a good long time (until March 31, 2008). "Widely considered the official typeface of the twentieth century, Helvetica communicates with simple, well-proportioned letterforms that convey an aesthetic clarity that is at once universal, neutral, and undeniably modern."
Perhaps the highest praise I can offer for Helvetica comes courtesy of Meg, who was snickering on the way into the theater about going to see a movie about a font and exited saying, "that was great, now I want to be a designer!" The rest of the audience, mostly designers and type folks, loved it as well. But for the non-design folks, what's compelling about the movie is getting a glimpse of how designers think and work; that it's not just about making things look pretty. The modern world is awash in signage and symbols and words and for a lot of them, especially the corporate messages, there's a reason why they look the way they do. The story of Helvetica offers a partial key to decoding these messages.
Check out some clips from the film and the screenings schedule to find out when Helvetica will be showing in your area. Thanks to the fine folks at Veer for inviting me to the screening.