“It’s air; it’s just there”

Prada, Lufthansa, the New York subway system, American Airlines, push (yes on doors), and Jeep all have something in common; they all use the Helvetica font.

The list goes on, I was amazed to find out how many words we see everyday from brands to ads, webpages to signs on the streets that use Helvetica.

The documentary Helvetica approaches what we know, or don’t know, and think of typeface and fonts. Personally, I never thought that deeply of the process of creating a font. Sure, as a writer I’m interested in how words look and what they reflect, and wonder every time I see Comic Sans why it exists as much as the next person. But to break down one single character to grid and invert how it is perceived from black bent lines to the white space around those lines was eye opening for me.

Dear old Helvetica has been developed almost 60 years ago, and it became so popular because of computers. Yes you read that right, computers made an old thing popular. So popular that we don’t even think about it anymore, it’s so basic it’s almost considered lazy to use. And that’s not an offense, in a way Helvetica has come to be so familiar that brands all over the world are using to send out a message or establish a brand, based on this familiarity that makes the font itself unnoticeable so the message would be.

But going back to the basics of type meanings and how a single letter is designed really shows that creating something, anything, that would be considered “default” in years is a higher goal to aspire to. I mean the film interviewed experts in graphic and type design and they used words like “blood” and “air” and “humane” and how its letters live “in a powerful matrix of surrounding space,” to describe a typeface!