We saw a great movie over the weekend at the Gene Siskel Film Center. Helvetica, a documentary by Gary Hustwit, explores the history of THE modernist typeface, which celebrates its fiftieth birthday this year. At first glance a film about a font may seem like a snoozefest, but the discussion about Helvetica encompasses a much larger conversation between high modernism and DIY design.
Some love it and some hate it, but Helvetica (with its clean, modern and some think totalitarian aesthetic) is everywhere: on street signs, subway maps and Gap ads, peeking out at you from almost any city street.
Interviews with over a dozen designers show the scope of stances in the design world, and the overwhelming impact of modernism on design today. Massimo Vignelli (left), designer of the super-clean American Airlines logo, and David Carson (right), former Art Director of the experimental Raygun magazine, are on opposite ends of the design spectrum.
Helvetica plays in Chicago through the 21st. The film also has tour dates lined up for the next few months and an excellent website with movie posters for sale, created by designers interviewed in the film.