Watching the Helvetica documentary in class was an extremely insightful experience and gave me a look at the world of designers as I had never seen it before. Although I do have some creative skills, the way that my mind works is vastly different than that of the typeface designers from the movie. Walking around on the street or inside the mall, never would I think twice about the typefaces used for logos, storefronts, advertisements or products–but for the designers in the film, that’s all that they see. Watching the movie and seeing all of the different examples of how Helvetica was used was actually quite surprising to me, because that’s something I have never noticed before and probably never would have noticed if it wasn’t brought to my attention in the film. Helvetica alone can be found in hundreds if not thousands of logos, documents, advertisements and products, yet because of its versatility and the infinite ways that it can be applied to the text of these objects, these logos, documents, advertisements and products still remain unique. The American Apparel logo, for example, certainly has a different feel from the Sears logo, and still different from the Toyota logo. Even though they all use the same basic typeface, they are all still so unique, and I think that shows one of the true powers of Helvetica.
In the first chapter of “Thinking with Type,” I was able to learn even more about the many different aspects of a typeface that make each one so different from the last. Although we touched upon it in class, I learned about the minute details that really make a typeface unique and how these differences can be utilized to design an effective layout. When looking at the list of fonts in Word or InDesign, it is very obvious that each gives a very different feel to the text to which it is applied. However, without a knowledge of the different aspects of a typeface and an understanding of the different parts of each letter, it is hard to understand why they are even different at all. Seeing how the x-height, scale and serifs can be slightly adjusted with each typeface allows me to see the differences that make each font unique. Therefore, I can better understand the message that each is sending and how I can best portray my message through type. This chapter was extremely beneficial in helping me understand the intricacies of type.
In the second chapter discussing different methods of setting text, I learned and reflected upon how spacing between letters, words, lines and paragraphs can dramatically change the feel of a piece of writing. All too often, these aspects of design seem to be left at the defaults. However, this chapter revealed that the default is not always the right option, and often there is a way to make your message more readable by changing these elements. For example, letters are often tracked too close together, creating a sense of discomfort and harshness for the viewer. However, if the letters are tracked too far apart, it can make the words feel distant and unrelated. Additionally, it is extremely important to ensure that your paragraphs are spaced properly so that they are distinctly separated while still appearing as a cohesive piece of text. Far more than font choice, these elements of graphic design are those that seem to be so often overlooked, and I think the most important aspect of this chapter was allowing me to explore these different features and what they can mean for a design.