Helvetica, the Documentary

I recently finished watching Gary Hustwit’s Helvetica. Yes, it’s a documentary about the ubiquitous typeface. Pretty sure I heard about it first from Paul (@ppedrazzi), which makes sense, given the content.

I like most documentaries, and this one appeals to the wannabe designer and font, erm typeface, nerd in me. It’s also an interesting historical study in the evolution of typefaces over the past 50 or so years.

Aside from the fascinating (at least to me) content, something struck me about all the typographers interviewed for the film. They are all very knowledgeable, not only about typography and its history, but also about related disciplines like industrial design and art history. I’ve noticed the same about designers in the past.

This type of cross-discipline and historical knowledge comes from classic education; it’s also the kind of knowledge base that made Steve Jobs so successful. He famously aimed for the intersection of technology and liberal arts, which is only possible with a broad base of knowledge.

At some point, the history of technology needs to creep into computer science curriculum. Knowing who came before you, what they accomplished, how they failed and rebounded, who invented what and how it all went down–these are all key to understanding the human side of technology.

For example, when a luminary like Dennis Ritchie passes, it’s important to understand the significance.

Maybe I’m alone here, but I think this is key to practicing a craft.

Update: I forgot to mention this wonderful documentary can be streamed from Netflix. Add it your instant queue right now.

Find the comments.




  1. Whew, glad to hear it. There’s a lot to be learned from other disciplines, especially since many of them have much longer histories.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.