Typography – or the art of arranging type – plays a huge role in our everyday lives. It’s nearly impossible to look at a book, read a website or gaze at a billboard ad without taking in the the way in which the text is arranged and experiencing some kind of psychological impact.

Part of that impact comes from the choice of font that is used – and with hundreds of thousands of choices available, picking the right one can be tricky.

First developed in 1957 in Switzerland, one of the world’s most-used fonts is Helvetica. It’s such a popular choice, in fact, that in 2007 a feature-length documentary film of the same name was released to coincide with the font’s 50th anniversary.

Produced and directed by American film-maker Gary Hustwit, it premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March of that year, with the DVD released in November.


What’s it all about?

Featuring interviews with some of the most innovative typographers and designers in the world, Helvetica is a documentary that was shot on a tiny budget. It encourages the viewer to take a closer look at the thousands, if not more words they see each and every day, with the underlying theme being the way in which type affects our day to day lives.

As well as exploring the history of the typeface after which the documentary is named, Helvetica’s interviews span a range of topics – from their views of the popular font, to their own work processes and the reasons behind the typefaces that they choose to use.

Helvetica Poster

Helvetica was shot on location in a number of countries: the US, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Switzerland. You’ll see London in a starring role too, with a walk through the city showing just how widely Helvetica is used on everything from shop fronts to traffic signs, and even notices stating that “Posters will be prosecuted”. It’s an intriguing glimpse into just how far the global reach of the Helvetica typeface goes, further exploring the use of fonts in urban environments.

To some, it might sound like an odd subject choice for a documentary, but Helvetica is truly interesting and intriguing, bringing together the font’s history with an exploration of how typefaces are used, designers’ personalities and viewpoints, visual cultures in different countries, and how type affects our lives without us even realising. It brings together elements from the worlds of psychology, advertising, design and communication to tell its story.

Nominated for the “Truer Than Fiction Award” at the 2008 Independent Spirit Awards and shortlisted for the “Designs of the Year” award from Design Museum London, Helvetica is well worth a watch.

Whether it’s Helvetica or any other font, choosing the right typeface is vital if you want to ensure your printed materials give the desired impression. LEFA Print offers a wide range of bespoke printing options where the quality of the design, the bespoke printing service and the finish come together to create something truly beautiful that is tailored perfectly to your needs. Contact us to learn more.

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