Friday, February 27, 2009

what did helvetica tell you today?

talking with my drawing teacher during an extended water break several years ago in the old brimhall building, i noticed a sign for a "typography" class.  i could only surmise that this was the study of type, but that didn't make much sense; what was there to study about type?
a few years later, a friend was telling me about her typography class, learning about serifs and other such things; things i had never considered, but what sounded strangely interesting.  it was around this time that i also read this article, following through the design process, and i realized that i had an innate fascination with typography and graphic design.

a few weeks ago on itunes i was watching the trailer for daft punk's electroma and noticed a related link to a movie called "helvetica".  only recently did i learn that was a type font, but didn't know enough to know there could be a movie about it.  
the trailer looked good.
the orem library had it.
i loved it.

it never occurred to me that people actually design fonts, or that they're still designing fonts.  like so many other things, it's a subject that you don't think about until you start thinking about it.  but up until this personal paradigm shift, i figured that most fonts were discovered within a reasonable time after gutenberg.  certainly helvetica, the most ubiquitous and invisible of the them all, had been around centuries.
actually, it turned 50 in 2007.

the documentary looked at where the type came from- designed in switzerland, the name is a slight modification of the roman name for switzerland, and you can walk to a room, open the cabinet, and literally hold "helvetica" itself in your hand.  the movie talked with designers around the world about how and why this font very quickly spread everywhere and into everything.  why it looks so nice, why we respond it, and why it's responsible for the war in iraq (the lady said that one with a wink).

while it is about type, graphic design, and helvetica, these topics very easily slid into how we think and react, and what society tells us, often without realizing it in any way.  fonts are the messenger for everything we read.  as one of my earlier posts this year showed, it can be fun to look a little wider and notice the typography all around us.  helvetica is everywhere: i was pointing it out on the way to the draper temple open house today.  watching a japanese movie this morning, i noticed that the subtitles were in helvetica.

there's something very exciting about the first cracks into an entirely new field of knowledge, taking the initial realization of how little you know, and how fresh it is.  if any of this is remotely interesting to you, check out the movie.  it's 80 minutes long, and i will eventually own it.  i'm happy to loan it.

in my 2-D design class, our first assignment was to design an alphabet.  had i known what i know now, that would have been a much harder assignment (and i probably would have done a much better job).


Jaime said...

when you told me you were watching helvetica, i thought, isn't that a font? ha ha. yeah, i took some graphic design and know the importace of font. and like you said, most people dont even think about it. i have a HUGE prejudice against comic sans. EVERYONE uses it for EVERYTHING and i dont know why. it looks like little kid handwriting. i've seen it on everything from a truck on the freeway, to an advertisement and even my friends wedding announcement. ever time i see it, it makes me angry. i wish someone would just "take it out". (if you catch my drift.) i really hate it. (who knew, you could hate a font? and i do.)

~Bekahjo said...

My newest favorite is "Arizona." Check it out. I was excited when you mentioned serifs, because I actually knew what you were talking about. Yea for calligraphy. And trust me, serifs are harder to do than you'd think. I mean, the name itself is hard!

Alyssa Rock said...

That was a great doc, yes. It's like suddenly you realize that something you take for granted and see every day is everywhere. And you'll never look at it the same again.

Gary Hustwit's latest doc called Objectified looks intriguing too.