is a feature-length independent film about typography, graphic design and global visual
culture. It looks at the proliferation of one typeface (which will celebrate its 50th
birthday in 2007) as part of a larger conversation about the way type affects our
lives. The film is an exploration of urban spaces in major cities and the type that
inhabits them, and a fluid discussion with renowned designers about the choices and
aesthetics behind their use of type.
Helvetica encompasses the worlds of design, advertising, psychology, and communication,
and invites us to take a second look at the thousands of words we see every day.
The film was shot in high-definition on location in the United States, England, the
Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, France and Belgium. It is currently in post-production
and is slated to begin screening at film festivals worldwide starting in early 2007.
Interviewees in Helvetica include some of the most illustrious and innovative names
in the design world, including Erik Spiekermann, Matthew Carter, Massimo Vignelli,
Michael Bierut, Wim Crouwel, Hermann Zapf, Stefan Sagmeister, Jonathan Hoefler, Tobias
Frere-Jones, Experimental Jetset, and many more.
About Helvetica the Typeface
was developed by Max Miedinger in 1957 for the Haas Type Foundry in Munchenstein,
Switzerland. In the late 1950s, the European design world saw a revival of older sans-serif
typefaces such as Akzidenz Grotesk. Haas’ director Eduard Hoffmann commissioned Miedinger,
a former employee and freelance designer, to draw an updated sans-serif typeface to
add to their line. The result was called Neue Haas Grotesk, but its name was later
changed to Helvetica, derived from Helvetia, the Roman name for Switzerland, when
Haas’ German parent companies Stempel and Linotype began marketing the font internationally
Introduced amidst a wave of popularity of Swiss design, and fueled by advertising
agencies selling this new design style to their clients, Helvetica quickly appeared
in corporate logos, signage for transportation systems, fine art prints, and myriad
other uses worldwide. Inclusion of the font in home compter systems such as the Apple
Macintosh in 1984 only further cemented its ubiquity.