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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Changing the world, one letter at a time…
Helvetica is a feature-length independent film about typography, graphic design and global visual culture. It looks at the proliferation of one typeface (which will celebrate its 50th birthday in 2007) as part of a larger conversation about the way type affects our lives. The film is an exploration of urban spaces in major cities and the type that inhabits them, and a fluid discussion with renowned designers about their work, the creative process, and the choices and aesthetics behind their use of type.

Helvetica encompasses the worlds of design, advertising, psychology, and communication, and invites us to take a second look at the thousands of words we see every day.

Interviewees in Helvetica include some of the most illustrious and innovative names in the design world, including Erik Spiekermann, Matthew Carter, Massimo Vignelli, Wim Crouwel, Hermann Zapf, Neville Brody, Stefan Sagmeister, Michael Bierut, David Carson, Paula Scher, Jonathan Hoefler, Tobias Frere-Jones, Experimental Jetset, Michael C. Place, Norm, Alfred Hoffmann, Mike Parker, Bruno Steinert, Otmar Hoefer, Leslie Savan, Rick Poynor, Lars Muller, and many more

Special Features:

95 minutes of bonus interviews English and German subtitles


Blissful..it sharpens your eye...and makes connections between art and life. -- Chicago Tribune

Helvetica is truly a work of art. -- Austin Chronicle

One of the wittiest, most diligently researched, slyly untelligent and quietly captivating documentaries of the year. -- Time Out London

Provocative. -- NY Times

Viewers are in for an exclamation point of joy from such a well designed doc. "A -" --Entertainment Weekly

Product Details

  • Actors: David Carson, Erik Spiekermann, Matthew Carter, Massimo Vignelli, Wim Crouwel
  • Directors: Gary Hustwit
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (DD)
  • Subtitles: German, English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Plexifilm
  • DVD Release Date: July 1, 2010
  • Run Time: 80 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000VWEFP8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,541 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

What can you really say about this movie?
Pete M
Even if you have only a passing interest in graphic design, this film will open your eyes to the pervasiveness of Helvetica in the modern world.
C. Morgan
Very comprehensive and honest, Helvetica kept me 100% interested throughout the film.
Varun Bhandari

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Ronda Davis on November 9, 2007
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The historical significance of the typeface as well as the on-going evolution of typography make this a must see for anyone interested in typography and graphic design, but also a fine entertainment for film enthusiasts. Compelling interviews with notable professionals are informative, witty and often hilarious. Visuals run the gamut from elegance to true grit. Kudos to Gary Hustwit and his crew for this living history before it is not longer possible.
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful By edgepixel on May 1, 2008
Format: DVD
I'm a working graphic designer.

I'm an art graduate. As a child, I enjoyed to look at fonts for hours - a Letraset catalogue(titled in big Helvetica letters) from the 80s was one of my (most) prized possessions.

When I first heard about this movie I was thrilled. Now that I saw it, I can say it was worth my time. The movie is smart, witty, and a pleasure to behold - an endless stream of layouts. And valuable insights, commentaries and history. Oh yes, the film is also inspirational - it makes you think about good design. It makes you desire good design, whatever that may mean today.

My favourite quote from the movie:
"The life of a designer is a life of fighting--fight against the ugliness, just like a doctor fights against disease. For us visual disease is what we have around and what we try to do is try to cure it somehow, you know, with design." Thanks Mr. Vignelli for putting things into perspective.

Given Helvetica's importance in design history, this is not a movie you should miss.

I first saw Helvetica(the font) as a child, I first acknowledged it as a high school design student, now it's one of my 3 most used fonts at work. I know it's flaws and shortcomings, and I've come to rely on it's many strengths and virtues. It's versatile, strong and straightforward. It's one you can trust. It's also got a softer side, when you come to know her better. It's an old friend of mine, that now is starring in it's own movie! Now that's something to celebrate.

Cheers, Helvetica! Cheers, old friend!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Ann Makowski on November 16, 2007
Format: DVD
If so, this is the film for you. I was lucky enough to see it at the annual conference of the Society for Environmental Graphic Design - and loved it! It's accessible not only to designers but also to me - the biology major in the room. Gotta love a detailed history of something that you see every day - but may not notice.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Found Highways VINE VOICE on March 22, 2009
Format: DVD
Some of the more trivial things I learned from this documentary are that graphic designers don't wear ties, they do wear eyeglasses that sometimes are distracting, and they drink coffee out of simple plain white cups--not mugs.

The typeface Helvetica was created to carry the message of Modernism--simple, clear, without content of its own. Its job is get across whatever message is in the text. It can be used to tell you which is the men's room or why you should drink Coke.

Helvetica (a made-up word meant to connote "the Swiss typeface") was especially popular in Europe and in America in the 1960s and has never gone away.

But in the 1970s, because the use of Helvetica became universal in American advertising, a reaction set in--A.B.H., anything but Helvetica. Helvetica was for one American designer the typeface "behind the Vietnam War." (Judging by this documentary, American artists and designers reacted against Helvetica much more than Europeans did. Perhaps because, for Europeans after World War II, Modernism--which Helvetica represented--was already a reaction against the Romanticism in the Nazi ideology.)

A couple of the less trivial things I learned from the documentary are that few graphic designers seem to be women and that cultural stereotypes aren't dead. A German designer in the documentary said Helvetica typifies the "Swiss ideology" because every letter is like every other letter. He was a pretentious snob, but interesting to listen to. I learned more about him than about design. It reminds me of the old joke: "That's enough about me. Let's hear about you--what do YOU think about me?
Read more ›
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Cedarview on May 9, 2008
Format: DVD
Even as their ideas and decisions form a big part of the visual fabric of our lives, most consumers probably don't know too much about graphic designers and the way they go about doing what they do. "Helvetica", while on the surface a documentary about the development and world domination of a particular style of lettering, was more enjoyable to me for it's glimpses into the working lives of graphic designers, some of them towering personalities in that field. Tracing the development of Helvetica from it's origins at a Swiss design firm through to it's almost universal acceptance as a typeface of choice, the film includes snippets of interviews with everyone from the most seasoned European designers who have slaved over things like typeface for 50 years to the artists at the forefront of the aptly named "grunge" design movement that was ubiquitous in magazines like Spin and Rolling Stone throughout the 1990's. The interviewees level platitudes and criticisms about aspects of style in general and typefaces in particular with ease and evident relish. A designer by the name of Beirut has a great "scenery chewing turn" where he literally lays verbal waste to the stodgy, dusty, crappy way American businesses visually marketed themselves pre-1950. Another designer lets loose a semi-bizarre rant in which she makes a connection between her distaste for the over-usage of Helvetica and the fact that she associates it with Vietnam, Republicans, People Who Voted for Reagan, Big Impersonal Corporations, and the War in Iraq. Agree with their opinions or not, I have to admit that it was great fun to see these intellectuals get their stylish spectacles all fogged up over Helvetica, which plays such a very large role in their small slice of the modern world. As an added bonus, we get to learn what "san serif" means, which is worth the price of admission.
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