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EEC: Documentary Studies

Your responses to “Helvetica”

The Econ Extra Credit Team Apr 22, 2021
Heard on:

Thanks for writing in with your thoughts and reactions to this month’s documentary selection, “Helvetica.” 

For many of you, the film evoked nostalgia. Ira D. shared a memory of visiting a friend in an “old and slightly shabby” Montreal enclave decades ago. He recalled spotting a three-story walk-up with a bold, white house number in the Helvetica typeface and saying to his friend: “There goes the neighborhood.”
Another listener, H., wrote:

The first morning after our viewing, we had new eyes for the signage along our route. The show sparked discussion in our household of fonts-we-have-known, particularly as we lived through the wild and misshapen styles of the 60s and 70s.

Peter C. didn’t particularly enjoy the movie, but, he wrote: 

One part really caught my attention. It was when they showed the former(1960s) version of advertising and how it changed to bold, clean, crisp. I’m not old enough to remember the 1960s advertising but I’ve seen it in old magazines so I recognize it. 

Jonathan S. wanted more from the film, saying it focused perhaps too closely on a single form of communication — namely, “short, quick messages.” He wrote:

While this short form communication works well with Helvetica, I would’ve liked to hear[about] a contrasting approach to long(er) form reading. Reading longer forms requires a different typeface to facilitate the reading and move the reader’s eye along the line. This is where serif fonts or typefaces are important — Times New Roman, for example. I would like to watch a movie that explores the development of moving type in general. 

And Matthew V. wrote in to recommend another of filmmaker Gary Hustwit’s documentaries, “Workplace.”

It takes a deep look at reimagining how we design professional workspaces, how we can maximize communication in the office, and become very efficient. Although it was done before COVID, it is still relevant today as we rethink the traditional office, working from home, and our work-life balance. I am constantly assigning this film to my students! 

We’ll be back next week with a preview of our next selection for this“Econ Extra Credit” documentary film series. Got a documentary recommendation you’d like us to consider? Email us at extracredit@marketplace.org

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