I decided to take a break from binge-watching Lost and instead watched the independent documentary Helvetica. A movie about a perfect font, described as friendly, clean and easy to read. One person in the film even described it as ‘air.’

Here is what I learned from it, so read this if you are too lazy to watch the movie but want to pretend like you did:


  • This font was created in Switzerland by Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffman
  • The Latin name of Switzerland is Helvetia, and the Latin name for Swiss is Helvetica
  • Many people in the film kept saying Helvetica was ‘ubiquitous,’ a word I spelled correctly on the first try (serious!) but had no clue what it means. Ubiquitous means present, appearing, or found everywhere
  • Helvetica is literally. everywhere. I was surprised at how many big-name brands use this font – crate&barrel, Target, Toyota, Nestle, The North Face and American Airlines. Little Miss Sunshine and The Office use it in their titles.
  • ‘There’s a fine line between simple and clean and powerful, and simple and clean and boring,’ – a quote from some old guy in the film
  • This film briefly mentioned MySpace, as it was released in 2007, when MySpace was huge. There are people who still use Myspace. Let me pause and laugh for a moment.
  • There are such things as Freitag bags, which are heavy-duty messenger bags (or totes, backpacks or wallets) made out of old truck tarpaulins. Yay recycling and beautiful, unique bags! They’re expensive, though. Who would have guessed that recycling would be so costly.
  • Graphic design seems like a nightmare job, especially if you’re not naturally creative. ‘It’s not about having the latest version of whatever program, if you don’t have the eye, if you don’t have a sense of design, the program isn’t going to give it to you’
  • Some people are really passionate about this typeface. Others hate it with a passion.
  • We must appreciate the very little things in life, such as a simple typeface.

In short, I never thought I would be interested in a movie about a typeface but it was actually pretty captivating. I enjoyed the movie and Helvetica just became my new favorite word. It just rolls off the tongue so nicely.


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