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Helvetica (2007)

7.2
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A documentary about typography, graphic design, and global visual culture.

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Title: Helvetica (2007)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Manfred Schulz ...
Himself
Massimo Vignelli ...
Himself
Rick Poynor ...
Himself
Wim Crouwel ...
Himself
Matthew Carter ...
Himself
Alfred Hoffmann ...
Himself
Mike Parker ...
Himself
Otmar Hoefer ...
Himself
Bruno Steinert ...
Himself
Hermann Zapf ...
Himself
Michael Bierut ...
Himself
Leslie Savan ...
Herself
Tobias Frere-Jones ...
Himself
Jonathan Hoefler ...
Himself
Erik Spiekermann ...
Himself
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Storyline

A documentary about typography, graphic design, and global visual culture.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Documentary

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

12 September 2007 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Quotes

[first lines]
Rick Poynor: Type is saying things to us all the time. Typefaces express a mood, an atmosphere. They give words a certain coloring.
Michael Bierut: Everywhere you look you see typefaces. But there's one you probably see more than any other one, and that's Helvetica. You know, there it is, and it seems to come from no where. You know, it seems like air? It seems like gravity?
Jonathan Hoefler: And it's hard to evaluate it. It's like being asked what you think about off-white paint. It's just... it's just there. And it's hard to ...
[...]
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Connections

Followed by Urbanized (2011) See more »

Soundtracks

Lorge
Written and Performed by El Ten Eleven
Vopar Music/Go Champale Music
Courtesy of Bar/None Records
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Mildly interesting, but ponderous
18 June 2009 | by (Los Angeles, Calif.) – See all my reviews

A documentary about a typeface? For those of us who take interest in such things, of course! But if you're one of those who never bothers to change the default font in your Word documents from Times New Roman, then I'd recommend you stay away from this film altogether.

Unfortunately, even those who are keenly aware of typefaces may find this movie disappointing. My main criticisms:

1. It spends long sequences showing us examples of Helvetica signage used in various contexts. Some are elegant and clean, many are torn old posters, ragged pieces of letters peeling off walls, etc. These sequences were artistic and okay at first, but maybe after the fourth one, you find yourself reaching for the fast-forward.

2. It spends the vast majority of its time in interviews with various designers discussing their impressions of the font's "meaning" or its impact in the history of design. This should have been perhaps 30% of the film, instead it is closer to 80%.

3. It doesn't spend enough time looking at the technical details of the font. There are occasional off-hand references by some of the interview subjects to various features of certain letters, but even those segments are not illustrated. I would have loved to see a side-by-side contrast between Helvetica and similar sans-serif fonts used earlier, or perhaps others created since then. In one sequence, we catch a glimpse of one of the original large-scale drawings for one of the letters; I would have enjoyed seeing more of those, larger on the screen, and with explanation of how the various parts work in relation to one another.

With its current affective emphasis, this would have been an acceptable 45-min. documentary, but at an hour and a half, it is far longer than it needs to be. I hoped to walk away with an understanding of what made Helvetica uniquely popular, but that was never clearly shown in any way.


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