The phrase on the very first page of the Lupton book perfectly summarizes what the documentary “Helvetica” showed me. The phrase says: “Typography is what language looks like.” As the documentary proves, Helvetica is everywhere, and that is because Helvetica has become synonymous with the American culture. Everywhere the American language is, Helvetica is. From a newborn’s hospital bracelet to a gravestone, from a fast food logo to a high-class menu, Helvetica has become the tool Americans use to express themselves. Helvetica has been the chosen typeface for American culture because it is so readable and versatile. While it took me awhile as a child to figure out that the D in “Disney” was actually a D and not a G, there is no confusion with a font like Helvetica. As conversations become shorter and things like text messaging force our culture to rely on text and typefaces more than facial expressions and hand gestures, it is key that the typeface of Helvetica remain important in the future. Without a versatile typeface, it could become more difficult to communicate with one another.
However, being the popular typeface is not always a positive thing. As the documentary showed, the typeface is everywhere to a fault; people have stopped noticing it. For example, as I type this, I am just now realizing that this website uses Helvetica font. It truly is everywhere so people have become de-sensitized to it. At a time when the American culture is moving towards a digital era and text and typefaces are becoming so important, I think now is the time to praise logos that use different typefaces. For example, The New York Times‘ headline stands out because it is different and classic. Instead of choosing to stick with the status quo and use Helvetica again, I think the American culture should move away from Helvetica and dare to be different. As Lupton’s opening phrase exemplifies, our typography is a representation of our language. If our language is unique and expressive, why should our typeface not follow suit?