Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Happy Birthday Helvetica!

The ubiquitous sans serif font celebrates it's 50th birthday this year. To honor the great typeface director and producer Gary Hustwit created Helvetica, A Documentary Film. It opened to a packed house this week (March 17) at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin and will tour around the world. Hustwit brings together renowned designers to talk about their work, the creative process, and the choices behind their use of type. In doing this he delves into the history of graphic design.

Click here to visit the web site of Helvetica: A Documentary Film, by Gary Hustwit. Make sure you look at the clips.

Helvetica is a feature-length independent film about typography, graphic design and global visual culture. It looks at the proliferation of one typeface (which is celebrating its 50th birthday this year) as part of a larger conversation about the way type affects our lives. Helvetica will screen at film festivals, museums, design conferences, and cinemas worldwide, followed by the DVD release this fall.


Helvetica (shown in red) was developed by Max Miedinger for the Haas Type Foundry in 1957 and by the early 1960s became part of the worldwide craze for Swiss design and the International Style. Arial (shown in blue) came into being as desktop computers were developed by designers at Microsoft in 1982. Is one of these fonts more attractive and more legible than the other? Although designers certainly get passionate about the topic (almost always siding with Helvetica) Arial is now a common system font and is often the default for web pages. Perhaps the better choice for on screen viewing is Tahoma (shown in violet) which was designed by Matthew Carter for Microsoft in 1996. It has a larger x-height, more narrow shape and tighter letter spacing making it an attractive on screen font.

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