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July 19, 2007

The Guardian on Helvetica

Andrew Dickson profiled the film this week in The Guardian:

“If Hustwit looks chuffed, it’s easy to understand why. His first attempt at a full-length documentary, shot on a credit-card budget and made up of interviews with designers and typographers, has somehow become a global phenomenon. Since March, when the film premiered in Austin, Texas, it has been shown in cities from Auckland to Vancouver, Cologne to Santa Fe, and new dates are being added almost daily. Released in time for Helvetica’s 50th anniversary, it’s been screened at Zurich’s Helvetica50 celebrations and also at a commemorative exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The film will hit Britain at Oxford’s Britdoc festival later this month, with a three-week run at London’s ICA slated for early September.

On the face of it, such demand seems hard to explain. Typography, the art of crafting letters, numerals and symbols and arranging them in communicable patterns, is among the more recondite and poorly understood aspects of design. Most of us comprehend what it is architects and engineers do each day, just as we’re used to grappling with the applied design that rules our daily lives, whether it’s the shape of a kettle or the operation of a photocopier. But about typographic design, whether good or bad, we’re clueless. Design a building and it’s headline news. Design some text and barely anyone notices. For all that, typography is ubiquitous. We require text, text requires form, form requires design.”

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