Why the wacky font? you ask. Well, let me tell you.

A font and a movie

 

 

So we’re watching a documentary about a font …

 

Not interested? Didn’t grab you? That may be because you’re unaware of all that a particular font says about us and the underlying words (or product, or service) that the font represents.

On Friday, our “Change of Venue” Day, I recommend Helvetica: A Documentary. Here is a description:

Helvetica is a feature-length independent film about typography, graphic design and global visual culture. It looks at the proliferation of one typeface (which recently celebrated its 50th birthday in 2007) as part of a larger conversation about the way type affects our lives. Helvetica has been shown at over 200 film festivals, museums, design conferences, and cinemas worldwide, and is now available on DVD.

Read more about the movie here.

And there is even a blog about the film.

The movie demonstrates that the font, with all its san-serif coolness, exudes qualities that corporations, organizations and advertisers yearn to “own.” Those are qualities like openness, transparency, modernity, friendliness. (Yes – all of that in a font!)

Because it’s been adopted so broadly, though, it almost seems to have been co-opted by those who try to sell us on an image, which may barely reflect the reality.

For example, consider the fact that the I.R.S. has adopted Helvetica for its tax forms. I.R.S., open and transparent? Do you feel the disconnection yet?

Once you see the movie, you can’t help but see this typeface everywhere. Books, posters, newspapers, even our own Arizona State University have reached in and grabbed that corporate font.

Here are a few ways Helvetica (and even Verdana) touch us every day.

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And because this is Friday, and I’m talking font, and we’re all adults, you really have to read this hilarious monologue published by McSweeney’s. It is an obscenity-filled diatribe as spoken through a font: Comic Sans, which feels it gets no respect.

Can’t picture comic sans? View the opening lines of this blog post—or just scroll through your typefaces in Word.

Start chuckling here.

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