Gary Hustwit’s Helvetica was great. Shown as part of the Wellington Film Festival, it drew most of the top type talent in the city there: self, Kris Sowersby, David Philpott, Len Cheeseman. Seeing your mates on the big screen was also a joyous experience: Otmar Hœfer’s bow tie was unexpected (we had dealt on email for over a decade so I never knew the man’s dress sense); and, as I expected, even if no one else did, it was our Germanic colleagues (Erik, I am talking about you) who had the best sense of humour about the typeface family. In a liberal town like Wellington, Paula Scher (who has never done a bad piece of work in her life) was pretty popular among the audience.
As for me, I have always been a convert to modernism and to Helvetica itself. I still remember the moment in 1979, at primary school, when I saw Helvetica Medium (the Haas weighting system) in The Lettering Book. The book was $4·95. I never asked my parents for it. Perhaps by not having it, I was more drawn to creating my own typefaces. It is in contrast to Kris, whom I know has a dislike for Helvetica. Me, I went on and did my own Swiss typeface family for Lucire, which I think is more legible—but it plain isn’t Helvetica.
I take my hat off to Mr Hustwit for showing us the notes between Miedinger and Hoffman as Neue-Haas Grotesk took shape in the 1950s and for exploring the issues that led to the family’s ubiquity in the 1960s and 1970s.
My thanks to my former student Susi Lang for arranging my ticket. When she asked where we could see Helvetica used while in the cinema, I asked her to look down at the seat numbers. And there it was. Posted by Jack Yan, 11:36
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