Tuesday, February 19, 2008


While I've been practicing the past couple of days, I've been watching the documentary called Helvetica. Who would have imagined that a documentary about a typeface could be so fascinating? If you enjoy words, art, design, aesthetics and the pursuit of excellence, I highly recommend adding it to your queue. I'll never look at fonts the same way.


Scott Lyons said...

As a used-to-be typesetter my preoccupation with fonts is the stuff of legends - at least with my wife - though she called it anal, not legendary.

I've seen the documentary and found it fascinating. And I was happy that it was not simply a Helvetica love-fest. I loved the color added by the dissenters.

Sherry C said...

Ok, I am so relieved to see that, if indeed I am a total nerd, at least I am in good company here.

I saw this documentary last month in the "instant viewing" line-up and was secretly drawn to it, even as I laughed at myself.

Words, language, art and design, they all come together in fonts. I love them. Now that two of you have given the thumbs-up to the documentary, I must watch it.

Incidentally, just yesterday I was in a conversation with my daughter about what to name her latest elephant toy. Her name is Elli, and since she was tiny, she has loved all things Elli-phant related.

She has named several elephants variations of Ellie, Elle, Ella, etc., so this time Andy suggested perhaps she should go with the second half and name it Phant or Funt, or something similar.

I suggested she name it Helvetica. Andy rolled his eyes. Elli wrinkled up her forehead in confusion. I let it go.

But if I am ever in the position to be naming an elephant, you can be certain it will be named Helvetica.

Or maybe Amienne...ooh, or Blackadder--maybe even Hattenschweiler...

Dan said...

Scott, you were a typesetter? That's intriguing to me...

And Sherry, you're definitely in good company!

Here's a really nerdy thing to do: I found myself in Barnes & Noble today and made a beeline for the graphic arts section and picked up an encyclopedia of fonts. I could have spent hours poring over them, which just seems silly.

But I think you and Scott would understand.

Scott Lyons said...

I was a typesetter for about 5 years - but of course it was all computer typesetting or "compositing" by the time I started. I would have loved to have learned the trade handling and setting steel type. I think that would have been quite satisfying.

Unfortunately it's treated similarly to data entry now, which is a shame, but perhaps that perception has more to do with the companies where I typeset than it does with the profession itself.

Also, it required very little artistry on my part - mostly chunking and wrapping text for publications. An eye for space.

But I enjoyed what was there. There was tedium to be sure, but there's also a freedom in tedium that you can't have in other work.