Monday, February 4, 2008


My dad is an architect and he used to get some flak from us kids for keeping a book called "Properties of Cement" as bedside reading (though what could be more conducive to sleep?). Do we all become our parents?

Last week, thanks to Netflix, I watched a feature length documentary on the typeface called "Helvetica." Considering that this was an entire movie about a font, the film was far more fascinating than it had any right to be. I enjoyed every minute of Helvetica and, on the other hand, I couldn't even finish our other Netflix rental Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

There are ideas and philosophy behind everything, even the things you don't notice. I'm not sure I like what helvetica stands for. Helvetica is used more than any other font in existence and we see it thousands of times a day. It's like the triumph of beige in a world that cries out for color and meaning and depth.

On the other hand, there are things to admire about it. According to the documentary, the name "helvetica" is a latinized word meaning "the swiss typeface" and if nothing else Helvetica is almost quintessentially swiss. Precise, without frills or embellishment, perfect in its functionality.

If you have an interest in the look of the world around you, then check out Helvetica. (stills and clips/trailers)