Helvetica- the movie


Based on the suggestion from Keith Jenkins, my former boss at the Washington Post, I purchased the DVD of Helvetica, "a feature-length independent film about typography, graphic design and global visual culture. It looks at the proliferation of one typeface (which is celebrating its 50th birthday this year) as part of a larger conversation about the way type affects our lives" by Gary Hustwit.

J and I just finished watching it, and our review? Two thumbs up!

I had flashbacks to some of my design classes from college while watching creators of various typefaces I know and use talk about serif and sans serif, x-height and cap height, zingbats and script, etc (If this at all peaks your interest, Wikipedia has a pretty good summary of type here).

The interviews were peppered with real-life examples of Helvetica everywhere- from street signs to stores to IRS paperwork. It was very educational, and we both feel as tho we are now cursed, in a sense, because we'll be noticing the abundance of Helvetica in our everyday lives too.

Here are a few trailers to give you a sense of the documentary:

This got me thinking about my logo, and how I don't know anything about the history of Avenir, the typeface that has become the brand of emilie inc. So, I googled it and learned!Avenir was created by Adrian Frutiger (born in Switzerland in 1928) in 1988. According to Linotype.com, "The word Avenir means 'future' in French and hints that the typeface owes some of its interpretation to Futura. But unlike Futura, Avenir is not purely geometric; it has vertical strokes that are thicker than the horizontals, an "o" that is not a perfect circle, and shortened ascenders. These nuances aid in legibility and give Avenir a harmonious and sensible appearance for both texts and headlines." There is a full interview with Frutiger here and a picture of him at right.

Fascinating stuff, isn't it?

And I was happy to see that Avenir is the 3rd most popular font, behind Neue Helvetica and Helvetica on linotype.com.

Let me know if you spot Helvetica somewhere unexpected! And track the success of the Helvetica documentary by following the news on their blog here.


  1. I love Avenir! It's one of my favorite fonts. Very contemporary and versatile--can use it for titling or body text of documents.


  2. that's fascinating! i really want to see this movie now... muchas gracias for the great tip!

    ~andrew mejia~


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