It’s not every day that a movie is made about a typeface. Well, technically it was a documentary by Gary Hustwit that debuted in 2007 at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas. It later aired on PBS in January 2009 as part of the Emmy-award-winning Independent Lens series, which is the version I saw.
The film, Helvetica, subsequently toured film festivals, special events, and art house cinemas worldwide, playing in over 300 cities in 40 countries.
Why all the hoopla over a typeface? Well, in short, no other font can begin to approach Helvetica’s long-lived impact on the design, advertising, print and communication worlds. To this day, Helvetica continues to shine based on its simple, functional, contemporary, and timeless qualities.
Helvetica was developed by Max Miedinger with Edüard Hoffmann in 1957 for the Haas Type Foundry in Münchenstein, Switzerland. Miedinger, a former employee and freelance designer, was commissioned by Haas to draw an updated sans-serif typeface to add to the firm’s line. Miedinger’s new font was called Neue Haas Grotesk, but its name was later changed to Helvetica in 1960, which is derived from Helvetia, the Latin name for Switzerland.
Helvetica’s popularity was fed by its Swiss design roots and by advertising agencies selling this new design style to their clients. Almost overnight, Helvetica began to appear in corporate logos, signage for transportation systems, fine art prints, and a myriad of other uses worldwide. Five decades later, the use of the Helvetica typeface in our daily lives is as ubiquitous as the air that we breathe.
What does your company’s logo and typeface say about your organization? Are you giving enough attention to how your company approaches the design, look, and feel of your products and/or services?
The best product or service in the world is of no benefit if it is not seen as appealing to the customer.
Take a page from our omnipresent friend, Mr. Helvetica, and make sure you are doing everything you can to appeal to your customers. If so, your company too will find itself still looking good at the ripe old age of 53.