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Movie Review: Helvetica

Alternate Title: Are You My Type?

Story: A documentary about a font probably has a niche target audience aimed at graphic designers and artists, but let me announce in BOLD letters that this is a terrific film, told in a linear, condensed, funny and loving manner.

Helvetica is ubiquitous. You see it in corporate logos everywhere including American Airlines, Panasonic, Microsoft, Nestle, Jeep, Toyota, Lufthansa, Amtrak, IRS forms, Greyhound, the entire NYC Subway System, Evian and Xerox. Check out my photo montage to honor this dependable font here. http://www.judithwolfe.com/helvetica-1.html

Helvetica is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Born in 1957 in the design studio of Max Miedliner and Eduard Hoffmann, it was first called Helvetia, which means Switzerland in Latin, but was changed to be more appealing worldwide. It was embraced by graphic designers because of its ability to communicate simply and clearly. The font became a worldwide sensation when Apple included it in its early bundle of fonts in 1984 and Microsoft quickly followed suit. It became the default font that some of you might still use.

Debut director Gary Hustwit, takes what could be a yawner of a topic and turns it into an amusing, fast paced ride over the font's 50 years of fame. The graphic designer talking heads speak passionately about the font. Some hate it, some love it, some simply appreciate its longevity, legacy and influence.

The Museum of Modern Art in NYC is honoring the anniversary with a special exhibition through March of 2008 that includes a 36 point lead Helvetica letterform. Check out this web site to see where Helvetica falls in the 100 Best Font list. http://www.100besteschriften.de/

Go to this site to see a funny Happy Birthday Helvetica video. http://www.judylobo.wordpress.com/

Acting: The graphic designers who speak about Helvetica include: Erik Spiekermann, Matthew Carter, Massimo Vignelli, Wim Crouwel, Hermann Zapf, Neville Brody, Stefan Sagmeister, Michael Bierut, David Carson, Paula Scher, Jonathan Hoefler, Tobias Frere-Jones, Experimental Jetset, Michael C. Place, Norm, Alfred Hoffmann, Mike Parker, Bruno Steinert, Otmar Hoefer, Leslie Savan, Rick Poynor and Lars Müller.

Predilection: I love fonts.

Critters: One hairless cat.

Food: Graphic designers do not seem to eat.

Sex Spectrum: Helvetica is a lot of thing, but it is not sexy.

Blatant Product Placement: The corporations shown using the Helvetica logo do not count. However, for all of my PC loving friends out there, Apple computer is the choice for all of the graphic designers.

Soundtrack: Funny

Opening Titles: A short segment showing a man hand setting the word 'helvetica'. Very nice touch.

Visual Art: An encyclopedia of images.

Theater Audience: A handful of font loving geeks like me.

Quirky Meter: 2

Squirm Scale: Some images of the graphic design world pre-helvetica were pretty squirmy to view.

Drift Factor: I did not drift at all.

Oscar Worthy: No

Big Screen or Rental: I am not sure that this film will make it to your local cineplex so rental might have to be the way to go on this one.

Length: 90 minutes.