This is a response/homage to the brilliant Helvetica documentary by two video production students. This is a perfect storm of media studies goodness. You can admire their straightforward documentary filmmaking technique as well as harken to the content and subject of the film.
Helvetica is a full-length documentary about one of the fonts I hate the most. Of course, I don’t hate it nearly as much as I hate Comic Sans, but even a viewing of the trailer on iTunes is very informative about Helvetica’s ubiquity (or over-use).
It was made to celebrate the font’s 50th anniversary two years ago.
I don’t mind sans serif fonts. I mostly like Myriad, though it’s becoming almost as common; and I’m fond of Frutiger; Gill Sans is good, but also over-used. My problem with Helvetica is that its a default choice, and a safe choice, a lazy choice, and an uninspiring choice. What’s wrong with Avenir? Or Scala Sans? Or Cronos? There are so many nicely-wrought sans serifs, many of them more recent than Helvetica, Eurostile or Univers, if only people would think a bit harder.
Still, guess what we’re watching in class next week? Think of it as a Christmas treat.
Those of you who think I am strangely obsessed with fonts are always sceptical when I claim that lots of other people share my obsession. Well, the IKEA adopts Verdana story has now appeared in Time magazine, and I’ll have you know that I have nothing to do with it.
Others seem mystified by the choice to eliminate one of the chain’s key identifying features. “The former typeface definitely better reflected Ikea’s design philosophy, giving it a very special, unique flavor that actually fit the company’s style,” says Vitaly Friedman, editor in chief of the online Smashing Magazine, which is dedicated to Web design. “With Verdana being used all across the Web, Ikea’s image not only loses originality, but also credibility and the reputation that the company has built since the 1940s.”
Here’s another take on the controversy: Why, Ikea, why? Snip:
Like many other critics of the switch I would counter that Verdana was specifically designed for use online. Why didn’t IKEA just switch to Verdana online and keep the typographically superior Futura for their print applications? I shudder at the thought of hovering Verdana-emblazoned billboards and bus stop ads.
The photo above is one of a selection of scary vintage hallowe’en photos, posted by this bloke on Flickr. He’s got an annoying habit of posting his pics to too many groups, but I’ll forgive him this once. This photo reminds me of all the bags-on-head horror movies we’ve seen this year. It dates from 1911.
That link was found by my favourite major-league blogging site, BoingBoing. Also on BoingBoing today, guest blogger Rushkoff signs off with a plug for his forthcoming book, which is his view on how we came to allow corporations to take over the world.
What I conclude is that our society didn’t just end up this way. This landscape was cultivated over time. We are living on a playing field sloped towards corporate interests. Every day, we negotiate the slope to the best of our ability. Still, many of us fail to measure up to the people we’d like to be, and succumb to the tilt of the landscape. We buy from Wal-Mart and supermarket instead of the local druggist and farmer who they put out of business. We save to send our kids to private school instead of investing our time to make the public ones better. We spend our money insulating ourselves from the crime in our neighborhoods instead of our energy reducing the poverty and resentment feeding it. When things are tough, it’s every man for himself.
Also also via BoingBoing, I found this interesting video of the design stages on the way to a New Yorker magazine cover. It’s easy to forget that some of the most iconic magazine covers in history were created with quite primitive software and hardware, and this particular designer is the graphic design equivalent of the author who still uses a manual typewriter (Don Delillo, for example).
A designer I used to know refused to upgrade his hardware and software because it worked, and he wasn’t going to risk missed deadlines by meddling with his system. Bob Staake uses very old hardware indeed – running Mac OS 7 (which dates back to 1994 or so) and Adobe Photoshop 3! This is a little reminder that lacking the latest and greatest software tools should be no barrier to your success. Another BoingBoing link today suggests that paper and pen are better thinking tools than computers, anyway: which is why you should take notes in class!
Finally, here’s an interesting comment piece from the Guardian about values and ideology – about the mythological basis of the quasi-religious faith some people have in free market economics. It’s all in the language — which you should listen out for on the news: faith, hope, belief, confidence — very little of which contains hard factual information. The global panic on the stock markets today outdid the panic that ensued following the 9/11 attacks. As someone pointed out on 5Live this afternoon, the weeks are starting to follow a familiar pattern: stocks fall on Monday; legislation by Thursday; stocks rally on Friday. And so on.