Helvetica: The Crystal Goblet Theory

Before taking graphics, I had always heard that helvetica was everywhere. I never took it to heart because it never meant anything significant to me. Even now, when I am writing my first draft of my blogpost, the typeface setting is helvetica, and I barely even noticed. Helvetica is everywhere.  I never noticed it before the documentary showed me how the typeface truly is on billboards, magazines, posters and even the custom setting on my computer. I started wondering why I never noticed, especially when speakers in the film were so passionate about the typeface.

The reason I had never noticed helvetica is the crystal goblet theory. This theory was touched upon briefly in the documentary and it spoke volumes to me. The typeface itself has less meaning than the actual content it holds. Therefore, people pay more attention to what they are saying, than the typeface they are using. Helvetica is so clean, modern and effortless that people cannot help to ignore the typeface and read what it is saying. If the actual content was written in a kokonor typeface, the reader might become distracted by the typeface and not pay as much attention to the content that the typeface holds. Truly, the importance isn’t the typeface, but the content the typeface holds.

I wonder how Lupton would feel about this crystal goblet theory. Her reading was devoted to the importance and meaning behind all of the different typefaces. I wonder if she would be deferred by the fact that some believe the importance of helvetica is the lack of importance, and the importance of actual content.



  1. This theory really does make so much sense. There’s no other logical explanation as to why we are so oblivious to a typeface that’s used so frequently. I do think Lupton would be bothered by the importance of Helvetica’s lack of importance, because she seems so passionate about the artistry of typefaces in general.

  2. This crystal goblet theory is so interesting to me. I guess a really great typeface probably shouldn’t be attention grabbing to the average reader at all right? For most uses, and time that the reader spends thinking “Gee, this font is really *blah*” is time wasted as far as communicating the literal meaning of the words. Right?

    Can typefaces have meaning without sharing the spotlight of the meaning of the actual words?

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