Sunday, August 8, 2010
The Covert Affairs of Helvetica...
She is smart, sexy, blond, a CIA agent and her code name is "Helvetica?” During an episode of the new TV show, Covert Affairs, the lead character was given the code name "Helvetica." I was taken aback by the use of this font for something so dramatic and well… covert. Helvetica is anything but covert, as a matter of fact it is everywhere in our daily lives. Thanks to the wonderful documentary, Helvetica, the font now seems to be in the fashionable lexicon of hip words as well.
If you have not had the opportunity to watch this documentary, you can download it through iTunes and make an evening of it! To the uninitiated, a movie about a typeface may not sound too exciting but once you watch the film you will understand how much Helvetica is a part of your everyday life. Due to its newfound celebrity, Helvetica is even sexy enough to be the code name for a gorgeous, CIA agent.
I showed Helvetica the movie to my graphic design students who proceeded to go out into the world and send me photos of Helvetica in their everyday lives. The examples were endless. Perhaps my favorite tribute was the student that chose to dress as Helvetica for Halloween - a plain white t-shirt with the word 'Helvetica' on the front - written in Helvetica, non-italic, regular.
The power of the visual media in action once again. By shining a light on the unique qualities of what was once a very industrial font, Helvetica has become a typography star. This font now trumps all others in the common person’s vocabulary (maybe with the exception of Arial - a Helvetica clone I might add.) What of the gorgeous Garamond and the conservative Copperplate fonts of the world? Will they ever get their day? My suspicion is only one font can carry a movie and Helvetica was the lucky one.