Nice Chicago Tribune review…
…and Shelby gets a shout-out! There have actually been quite a few nice articles published recently, if I get a sec I’ll post a few links.
Movie review: ‘Helvetica’
By Michael Phillips
Chicago Tribune movie critic
**** (4/4 stars)
The wonderful new documentary “Helvetica” introduces us to a global array of typographers and design wonks delving into the subject of the world’s most familiar typeface, the one used to brand everything from IRS tax forms to American Airlines to the half-price ticket booth in Times Square.
This does not sound like promising cinematic material. Yet like its seemingly neutral Swiss-born subject, the film says a great deal without raising its voice, lending wit and grace to an inquiry regarding the way a medium, a squiggle or the precise space between two letters affects a million different messages and a billion different eyeballs.
Producer-director Gary Hustwit, who has backed several music-themed documentaries, turns here to the subject of visual music, born 50 years ago in a type foundry in Munchenstein, Switzerland. “Neue Haas Grotesk” was the original name of the font designed by Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffmann. “Helvetica,” Latin for Switzerland, proved a fortuitous substitution, and shortly after the parent companies Stempel and Linotype began marketing the font to the world in 1961, the world ate it up.
Something — everything — about Helvetica captured a clean, welcoming Swiss modernist idea. “It seems to come from nowhere … like air,” one designer marvels. “It seems like gravity.” A half-century later Helvetica has become as common (in the words of one interview subject) as “off-white paint.” And to some it has morphed into a symbol of soothing corporate imagery that cannot be trusted.
The American graphic designer Michael Bierut offers some hilarious riffs about how Helvetica went over in the ’60s, after decades of fancy, script-y, wedding-invitation lettering and a surfeit of exclamation points used to sell us products. Here, he says, was a cool, rational font that defied the exclamation point. Designer Jonathan Hoefler refers to its “finality.” With lovely conciseness, design writer Rick Poynor speaks of the post-World War II need to rebuild and rethink the graphic landscape, and the desire to suggest a more democratic universe.
Hustwit filmed “Helvetica” on high-definition video in seven different countries. The way he and editor Shelby Siegel have assembled the street scenes, Helvetica emerges from every billboard, every other shop window. The real achievement of the picture, though, is the way it sharpens your eye in general and makes connections between form and content, and between art and life. By rounding up a great group of eloquent obsessives eager to explain their feelings about a font, Hustwit has come up with 80 unexpectedly blissful minutes.