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Lupton and Helvetica: An Eye-Opening Experience

Part 1

I found the movie Helvetica beatifully displayed the thought and artistry that goes into typography. Typefaces are one of those things the average person doesn’t think much about. As one of the interviewees in the docunemtary said (I can’t remember which one), it shouldn’t be something you think about. Using Helvetica on billboards and street signs helps display the words in a simple, effective way. The craziest part about Helvetica, to me, is that it’s so plain and simple. There are no fancy components to the letters that set it apart from any other typeface to the average viewer, and yet it completely changed the history of typography for many graphic designers. I think one of Helvetica’s most effective uses is with Apple. It is crucial for a brand like Apple, that makes computers and phones, to come off as easy to use. Helvetica shows the company is user-friendly, without actually saying it. Simply putting the brand name in Helvetica speaks volumes abut the mission of the company.

Part 2

In the chapter “Letter” of Ellen Lupton’s Thinking with Type, the most important idea is that type changes with society. Whatever is happening at that moment in time, typography follows suit. For example, I found the creation of Wim Crouwel’s “new alphabet” very interesting. Crouwel responded to the rise of digital communication, and created a typeface that uses only horizontal and vertical lines for optimal display on screens. Even though parts of the letters cannot be read on their own because they are missing seemingly crucial parts of the letter, when put together they are completely legible as words. After Crouwel, many other typefaces such as Emigre, Oakland, and Emperor were designed to be shown in digital forms as well.

Part 3

In the chapter “Text” of Ellen Lupton’s Thinking with Type, I was most intrigued by the discussion of the role of the reader. On page 97, Lupton says, “like an interpretation of a musical score, reading is a performance of the written word.” In other words, it is not about what is said in a body of text, but rather how the reader digests it; and to manipulate the reader into feeling a certain way about the text, one can use typefaces. Even Shakespeare’s greatest works would look childsh and unprofessional in Comic Sans. Typography is more influential to our lives than most of us understand, and thanks to this class, I’m finally beginning to understand how powerful it truly is.

Morgan Chamberlain

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