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28 Sep

Of all the documentaries that exist about fonts, “Helvetica” ascends above the rest.  In making this claim there’s little risk as this is probably the only documentary made about a font.  Nevertheless, if you own a personal computer, if you are interested in the evolution of western design since the 1950s, or if you want to better understand what exactly a font is, why there are so many of them, and why social and culture critics think that they matter, see “Helvetica.”

Matt Zoller Seitz wrote in the New York Times in 2007 that “the film’s provocative, lively interviews with graphic designers and theorists — including Massimo Vignelli, who created directional signs for the New York City subway system, and David Carson, author of ‘The End of Print’ — assess Helvetica’s impact on human life and thought. Some praise it as a conceptual breakthrough; others blast it as a lowest-common-denominator typeface whose use both reflects and perpetuates conformity.  Whomever you end up siding with, you’re guaranteed to spend the next few days scanning the world for Helvetica like a child on a cross-country car trip playing I Spy.”