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Helvetica (2007)

Not Rated | | Documentary | 12 September 2007 (USA)
1:39 | Trailer
A documentary about typography, graphic design, and global visual culture.


Gary Hustwit
3 nominations. See more awards »



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


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

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis




Not Rated

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

12 September 2007 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Гельветика See more »


Box Office

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Veer, Swiss Dots See more »
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Technical Specs




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


[All trivia items for this title are spoilers.] See more »


[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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Referenced in Gary Gulman: It's About Time (2016) See more »


Thinking Loudly
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

The Hype Over Helvetica
16 December 2007 | by secretagent_007See all my reviews

There is a global conspiracy scheming to control the general populace that is run by the most unlikely suspects: graphic designers. Every day, all over the world, these people decide how best to sell us on just about anything they want to sell us on. Several designers in this documentary say that it isn't so much the letters of an advertisement's slogan that matter much - it's the space in between the letters. What's so important about the empty space? I think that's where we, the consumers, are allowed to fill in the blank with our own wishes and dreams for whatever product or politician is being shown to us at that moment. But that's not really what this movie is about.

Helvetica is the most commonly used typeface in the modern world. Crate & Barrel, Target, American Airlines, and Energizer are some of the more notable companies that use Helvetica and its derivatives in their corporate logos. Countless other businesses have used it in their advertising. The reason for this is that it was designed for the specific purpose of being as universally acceptable as possible. It is not exactly stylish in and of itself, though many designers have used it stylishly because the typeface is merely a tool of the designer. They can make it stick out or blend in to their liking, and these seem to be the two main schools of thought over the use of Helvetica. The old school designers like it for its simplicity and boldness where newer, younger designers mostly see it as a generic relic from the 60's. One man who calls Helvetica a symbol of conformity and socialism apparently doesn't understand the irony of his using a MacBook at the same time he states this.

This film is focused on the Helvetica typeface - its creation, its purpose, and its uses - but it speaks volumes about the design/advertising industry as a whole. There are thousands of people who are striving everyday to make the average Citizen Schmoe feel a certain way and think a certain thing, to control and exploit our buying and behavioral patterns. They may not all be shilling Tide, but it is alarming to see inside that culture. Like any trend in the art world, Helvetica has gone through ups and downs. It was designed in the 50's as an answer to the kitschy, colorful designs of the era. It was meant to be powerful and grounding, not light and airy. It was used heavily throughout the 60's, but the designers got tired of it and abandoned Helvetica's straight lines for "grungy" design in the 80's and 90's. Since Helvetica was built to have almost no personality, designers started giving their work more of that with handwritten text and goofy designs which would have been considered printing accidents in decades past. In fact, one man actually received praise for a mistake that was made in publishing. So the new designers of the 90's were going wild, the older men shook their heads, and our current generation of designers were learning how to use Helvetica in wild ways. The lifespan of the font has come, gone, and come again, much like leg warmers are bound to someday soon.

The reason Helvetica is still being used today is because it works. People see those solid, strong letters and they instantly feel secure in the idea it's portraying and comforted by its mere presence, which makes it "ideal" to some people for use as public signs labeling streets, restrooms, subways, etc. It's mind control in a font. It's pretty fascinating stuff, to be sure. But be careful out there, readers. Next time you have to choose between Mobil and Arco gas stations, just remember they're both using the safety of Helvetica to lure you in. And then make the decision to go electric.


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