Helvetica and Lupton

Yes, the amount people use Helvetica surprised me. Yes, how often it goes unnoticed also surprises me. And yes, I couldn’t believe how technically sound the typeface was. However, what was most surprising to me was how passionate people were over this typeface! My first reaction to these people’s emotional connection to Helvetica was: “Really,  it’s just a typeface?” However, as the movie went on, I began to understand.

Helvetica is everywhere. It’s written on windows, billboards, in magazines, on mailboxes… It’s unavoidable. Helvetica says everything. It says “I love you,” and it says “I hate you.” Helvetica is simple. Helvetica is technical. Helvetica is professional. Helvetica is tradition. Helvetica is modern. Helvetica is… well, perfect.

By watching this documentary, I learned how typeface can plague a culture. Helvetica has plagued ours. It has been our connection to language and understanding for a long time. It continues at full power. People are so passionate about this typeface because it is a part of them (not only designers, but everyone). Waking up in a world with no Helvetica would be like waking up in a world without the color black. When you think of it in that light, you can truly understand a person’s passion.

The Lupton book and its content is obviously more technical than the documentary. However, the same point is made, in a way. All the technicalities that the Lupton book discusses proves the amount of thought that goes into a typeface. I didn’t realize this until I started reading the Lupton book. Each typeface that Lupton discusses almost has a “meaning” or “purpose” to culture. For example, “Gotham” was discussed as the typeface Barrack Obama used for his presidential campaign. Maybe then, Gotham can be considered to represent “change.” Future designers may keep this in mind.


One Comment

  1. I feel as if you and I had very similar reactions to Helvetica. I remember feeling a bit overwhelmed at the beginning of the film and thinking the exact same thing… “It’s just a typeface.” The fact that Helvetica is indeed perfect really did not hit me until after we left class. I began looking around me and noticed that the typeface really is everywhere. It was at this moment when I began to identify and feel the passion that was so apparent in the film.

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