Who knew? A documentary film about a typeface! Helvetica. I definitely have to see this!
About the film:
“[Helvetica] looks at the proliferation of one typeface (which will celebrate its 50th birthday in 2007) as part of a larger conversation about the way type affects our lives. The film is an exploration of urban spaces in major cities and the type that inhabits them, and a fluid discussion with renowned designers about their work, the creative process, and the choices and aesthetics behind their use of type.
Helvetica (the typeface) is near ‘n’ dear to my heart, as I see it a lot in my role as the “corporate identity guy” at work. Helvetica is one of the key typefaces in the federal government’s corporate identity program:
A consistent typography is fundamental to corporate identity, and three faces from the Helvetica type family have been adopted for purposes of the FIP. They were chosen for their versatility, excellent legibility and contemporary design.
I’d personally substite “timeless” for contemporary, but maybe that’s just me.
‘Course, even a crisp, clean, classic font like this ain’t perfect. Helevtica is great for headlines, signs, and other display situations. But it’s not so hot when you’re typesetting books — it has the rep of being hard to read when used as body copy. Why is this?
The reason that I’ve usually heard is that Helvetica suffers from a defect sommon to sans serif fonts: the letterforms in sans serif fonts don’t have those curly little hooks dangling off them that serif fonts like Times New Roman do. For some reason those little curly things make it easier to read in text on paper, where you’re dealing with lots of words set together in relatively small font sizes on a surface that does not emit any light.
Sans serif fonts like Helvetica (or Arial, the cut-rate knockoff that is standard on Windows PCs — it’s the no-name cola to Helvetica’s Coke) are generally known to be better for on-screen reading or display uses like signs, headlines and the like.
This dualism — serif for body copy, sans serif for display, or serif on paper and sans serif on screen — is something that I have heard many times from many people that I’ve worked with in the graphic design world. I understand that research to validate this from a screen vs paper perspective had been undertaken a number of years ago. But I imagine that would have been with horrible old CRT monitors with low resolution and narrow range of available colours. With all the recent advances in display technologies, I wonder if this rule is still valid?