I am watching Helvetica for the second time in three months. It’s an interesting and funny discussion on the typeface from typographers and designers.
It also brings up an interesting question as to which is better, legibility like Helvetica or the post modern typefaces that break the orderly rules of type?
I like both. Yeah, I know. I’m one of those people who choose not to pick sides however, I usually have a point to almost all of my indecisive madness. They both serve as a useful design in my life. I think what makes type effective and receptive to the audience is what it is used for. What is the function and purpose of this type? That’s the case winning question.
Helvetica, as a designer described it in the movie, “is ubiquitous, it’s like air.” It’s like the 7Eleven, which would be so ironic if it was in helvetica. (Hah, no?) Traditional fonts that often become defaults in our lives work well with what it is already used for like street and road signs, big corporations logos, anything that just needs to get a simple message across. If it were to be used in a print ad, I would use helvetica if I need the words to stand out when everything around it is cluttered. I would use it to make it powerful. Sometimes simple gets the message across. Sometimes there aren’t any fonts in the library or any that are created yet that can successfully get that particular message across. Say you’re designing a awareness poster about AIDS. What kind of decorative font face is there to use for something like AIDS? Create a typeface that plays on the image of infected needles? A damaged immune system? Maybe, but quite in your face don’t you think? I think the best quote, from the film, to support traditional font faces is this, “there is a difference between simple, clean and powerful and simple, clean and boring.”
BUT, there are some particular messages that work well with the post modern typefaces. What type of message are you trying to get across? Who are your target audiences? In advertising especially, if you are planning on targeting specific audiences or die hard brand loyalists then sometimes the the decorative font that plays to their interests will reel them in. And just when you thought that I was done with quoting the film, think again folks. Here’s another interesting point made in the film, “Just because it’s legible doesn’t mean it communicates, or communicates the right things.”
Both of these font designs have personality which also have their pros and cons. You can be boring at the wrong times yet powerful during the right times and you can be powerful at the right times and tacky during the wrong times. Traditional and post modern types. You can love one and hate the other or you can be like me and embrace their unique purpose and function to design. Unless you want to stick to handwriting in which I learned from my design class that some consider it as a dying art, but that is something that can be discussed in another post.