Over the weekend I watched the documentary film Helvetica by Gary Hustwit. Whether you’re a fan of all things fonts or just have an appreciation for design, you’ll find the movie great to watch and captivating to follow. So head on over to Netflix and watch it.
As much as I enjoyed the entire film, one particular excerpt resonated with me:
When you talk about the design of Neue Haas Grotesk, or Helvetica, what it’s all about is the interrelationship of the negative shape, the figure ground relationship, the shapes between characters and within characters with the black if you like, with the inked surface. And the Swiss pay more attention to the background so that the counters and the space between characters just hold the letters. I mean you can’t image anything moving, it’s so firm. It’s not a letter that’s bent to shape, it’s a letter that lives in a powerful matrix of surrounding space. It’s – oh it’s brilliant when it’s done well.
Specifically, the last sentence was particularly moving. If you think about letters and words as not only living but also alive “in a powerful matrix of surrounding space” then it becomes clear how their design – how the typeface picked – has a profound impact on the meaning given to and created in that space. Choose wisely.
Image courtesy of www.helveticafilm.com