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121 customer reviews

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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

Review 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 (121 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000VWEFP8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,001 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 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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Format: DVD
For the 50th anniversary of its creation, director Gary Hustwit takes us on a tour of the history, ideology, culture, controversy, and success of the ubiquitous Helvetica font. Created in 1957 by Eduard Hoffman and Max Miedinger of Haas Typefoundry, taking its name from the Latin word for Switzerland (Helvetia), the land of its conception, Helvetica is the quintessential modern typeface. It turned out to be just what everyone was looking for and exploded onto graphic design in the 1960s. Now it's everywhere: billboards, subways, logos, signage, consumer products, IRS tax forms, and the default on the computer I'm using now.

Not everyone is a fan of Helvetica, or perhaps I should say that not everyone is a fan of its ubiquity. Through interviews with 3 generations of graphic designers and type designers, "Helvetica" presents both its fans and detractors, what makes it is a truly great font, what makes it controversial, and the reasons it persists. Helvetica is the font that rescued graphic design from the kitschy chaos of the 1950s. A product of post-war idealism, Helvetica was perfect for facilitating communication in an intelligible, egalitarian way, on an international scale. It is described as: modern, clear, rational, accessible, transparent, and neutral.

By the 1970s, Helvetica had earned its share of critics. What had been revolutionary to old-school modernists seemed fascistic, boring, overused, and conformist to Baby Boomers. In rebellion against Helvetica, graphic designers sought more subjective, distinctive styles of type including illustrated, hand-drawn, and grunge typefaces. By the late 1990s, Gen Xers and their European counterparts were embracing Helvetica again, though perhaps with different goals and rationale.
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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