Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Team Helvetica

In type class yesterday, after turning in our font study posters, we launched our new project by watching the documentary "Helvetica." 

Check out the first 3 minutes of it on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9zt-gqUMsk&feature=fvwrel (the visuals in this first segment are just beautiful)

"Helvetica" is an independent feature-length documentary film about typography and graphic design. Although it highlights many of the different time periods that make up the history of graphic design, "Helvetica" mostly focuses on the typeface of its title. Directed by Gary Hustwit, it was released in 2007 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the typeface's introduction in 1957. 

The film aims to show Helvetica's beauty and ubiquity and illuminate the personalities behind the typefaces (when you are constantly looking at typefaces and the names of the type designers, it's nice to finally put a face to it). The documentary also explores the rift between the modernists and postmodernists with the latter expressing and explaining their criticisms of the famous typeface. 

It's so interesting to look at the timeline of graphic design. Design plays such an important role in our everyday lives and it's interesting to look at how it has changed throughout history. Whether you've seen the documentary or not, everyone knows how high of a pedestal Helvetica is held. Released in 1957, it is a rational typeface focused on legibility. It's clear and concise yet expressive when it needs to be. Mike Parker, a famous typographer, explained that part of the reason why Helvetica is so successful is the interrelationship between the type's counters and its negative space. Somehow, the characters are able to hold the letters firmly within their form. Massimo Vignelli also made an interesting point that in typography, it is not necessarily about the black, but yet the white; the negative space that surrounds the characters. In Helvetica it is graceful yet strong which allows for clarity to sink in and expressiveness to ensue. 

The question for response to this documentary was what side of the fence that we as designers fall on; where do you stand on the Helvetica love? Do you respond to the modernists or the post modernists? 

Although I'm still discovering myself as well as my design style, I believe that readability and clarity should be a central aspect to design. David Carson became successful because his design was so abstract and illegible. And while that's all well and good, clear communication is crucial in the world of graphic design. Without it, how are you supposed to illustrate your message? 

Keeping that in mind, I also believe that expressiveness should be an important aspect as well. Although, as designers, our style is constantly evolving, I believe that it should be incorporated in all work that you do. Focus on clarity, of course, but instill yourself into the design as well, let your design light shine through. Helvetica is just about as close to perfection as you're going to get. Utilize that. But among that clarity and organization, utilize your design style as well. Graphic design is a delicate balance, and while I'm far from figuring it out, it's nice to know that Helvetica's on your side. 

1 comment:

  1. The video was amazing--it's hard to imagine that not too long ago every piece of paper that was printed by typesetting was truly a work of art--and so under appreciated. Thanks for sharing