Category Archives: Film

Helvetica Or Highwater


*font: is what you use. comes in many flavors for a typeface. bold, italic, narrow.
*typeface: is how it looks.

“Egads – man! How dare you suggest a restaurant that has a menu printed in the Papyrus font? Viktor was reacting strongly to Harvey’s restaurant selection.

Harvey, our Homme-à-tout-faire, had casually said, “We could go to the Dim Sum restaurant. I haven’t been in awhile as my daughter refuses to step foot in there because their menu is printed in the Papyrus font.”


Viktor was horrified, “I, too, would never willingly visit an establishment with such poor taste in typography. Your daughter clearly has the makings of a world-class aesthete.”

Viktor continued in disdain, “Papyrus is… Papyrus should be the world’s most hated typeface. It is an abomination… it is a hideous stain in a world of lettering elegance. The early 80s gave us many great things; the moody future-noir of the movie Blade Runner, the ground breaking Commodore 64 home computer, and the birth of Prince William heir to the British throne… But it also gave us: an unprecedented military buildup by the Royal Navy for the rights to call an island the Falklands instead of the Malvinas, the poor having to wipe their brow after dealing with trickle down effects of Reaganomics, and the typeface Papyrus.”

“The only thing I could imagine as a legitimated use would be as the title font to a remake of “Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy.” Beyond that I can see no benefit.”, Viktor said.

“Well, the Papyrus font does have one other benefit.” said Einida, “It is a conspicuous clue that speaks of of a designer’s… ehem, naievete. No real artiste would be ever be caught using Papyrus. And no one should willingly use Papyrus… it simply isn’t done.”

Einida waved her hands and said, “It’s as scandalous as wearing white after Labor day and as awkward as trying to explain to a Highway Patrolman, who pulled you over for speeding, that the substance covering your face and blouse was from the powdered donut you just ate. And if only he would just take a quick taste this whole matter would be behind us…”  She trailed off for a moment.

Einida turned to Viktor and said, “Do you remember that Space Opera of a movie that had it’s subtitles rendered in Papyrus? It was just so ghastly!”

“And in 3D no less. The letters jumped off the screen, as if to assault me, daring me to brush them aside with my clenched fists. Just the sheer thought of that makes me shudder.” said Viktor with annoyance.

He turned to Harvey and said, “So, if your daughter has such a refined palate for good typeface design, I’m sure she’s seen the documentary titled, ‘Helvetica’?”


“Why no, I’ve never even heard of that documentary.” said Harvey.

“What… what? But you usually know everything!  What do you mean you haven’t seen the Helvetica documentary? It’s simply the greatest documentary about Helvetica ever made?” sputtered Viktor.

Einida helpfully added, “It may have also been the only documentary on Helvetica ever made.. at the time. Although, I think documentaries about typefaces and fonts have become increasingly popular.”

Viktor lifted his hand and pointed his finger to the sky and began to pontificate.

“It is a documentary that tells the astonishingly amazing story of how Helvetica was born. And about how significantly typefaces influence our lives. It delves into the psychology of marketing and how good design can change everything. It was created in the 1950s during the post-war reconstruction era, when people were looking for all things new and modern. It was born at a time when the people wanted to distance itself themselves from the hand rendered, messy, cursive past. “

“It was born at a time when the people wanted to distance itself themselves from a past that was hand rendered in messy cursive. “

Einida grinned and said, “Helvetica was the Swiss made-modern-typeface that could be used for anything from signage to corporate logos. Like many things Swiss; it is loaded with utility.”

“How long is the documentary?” asked Harvey.

Viktor gritted his teeth and said, “It is as long as it needs to be… to tell the tale of the great Helvetica. Why, Helvetica even changed my life.”

Einida interrupted and said, “The right typeface at the right time has changed many people’s lives. Typography is more than just the printed word; it is an art form, it is beauty incarnate. If angels used printers, they would print in Helvetica…”

Viktor broke off Einidas enthusiastic praises and launched into his own well rehearsed accolades, “Helvetica is a typeface finished as no typeface is ever finished. Add one serif and there would be diminishment. Displace one ascender and the structure would fall. I oft’ find myself staring deeply through the cage of those meticulous ink strokes at Absolute Beauty.” He paused and sighed with happiness.

“Ahem, indeed.” said Harvey awkwardly in an attempt to interrupt Viktor’s and Einida’s rapturous commentary, “Is the documentary age appropriate for my daughter?”

Viktor frowned and stroked his goatee. “I’m afraid that there may be strong language.”

Harvey looked surprised and said, “Why would there be cuss words in a documentary about a font.”

“Because people, designers especially, are deeply passionate about typefaces. There’s been a barbarous culture war raging for years because of the abhorrent Arial font.” Einda said with a grim look. She then spit on the ground for good measure, to make sure that Harvey got the point that Arial is evil, the kind of twisted reality evil of a mirror-mirror universe .

“That’s why the documentary is so superb. It scrutinizes the ‘Great Font Wars’ of the past and present.” said Viktor. “And about how Helvetica saved mankind from typographic ruin.”

“And the documentary influenced an entire line of mini documentaries based on other fonts like the dreaded Comic Sans, Trajan, Garamond…” Einida began listing terrible fonts.

Viktor interrupted and said, “Tosh! Papyrus is much worse than Comic Sans and Comic Sans is as hideous as seeing a Gorgon at 2 am. Besides, I always turn to the “Blambot” website for all my comic typeface needs…”

Harvey interrupted what was sure to be yet another long winded discussion about font merits and demerits and said, “So, how do you choose which font to use for a project?”

Viktor rubbed his hands together with glee and said, “I have a secret connection.” His eyes gleamed.

“What? How strange. I, too, have a secret font connection. I know of a gentleman who is an absolute genius when it comes to designing fonts. He is one of the world’s greatest Fontographers. He has served all of my typographic needs since 1996.” said Harvey with astonishment. He had always thought he was the only one with a secret font connection.

Viktor raised an eyebrow and said, “Are you speaking of the unparalleled type designer Ray Larabie?”

“Absolutely! The one and the same. The one and only Ray Larabie from the type foundry Larabie fonts. The man famous for ‘making computer novelty fonts.’ You know, he designed the font for the video game Grand Theft Auto?” replied Harvey with great enthusiasm.

“Of course I know that. I have the entire ‘Larabie Collection,’ as I have donated to him on a regular basis. The hundreds of free fonts he’s given out over the years have made the Internet and, indeed, the entire world a better place.” Said Viktor without a trace of hyperbole.

Then, Viktor smiled slyly and said, “So you have a secret font connection, but do you have a secret font collection?”

“Well… not really.” admitted Harvey.

Viktor threw his hands up and said, “I used to buy every font collection cd that I could get my hands on. Then, I sorted the fonts into appropriate typeface folders. I now have hundreds and hundreds of folders of completely organized typefaces. I’ve sorted over 3000 fonts!” Viktor cackled with triumph.

“Astonishing! What a robust resource.” said Harvey. “Do you also have a font editor?”

“Excuse me, but don’t we need to go to lunch? Does anyone know of any restaurants that have pleasingly designed menus?” asked Einida. She wanted to eat before having to listen to a conversation about font editors.

“Oooh! How would you like to eat at a place that uses a typeface that was custom designed for the Guggenheim Museum? A restaurant with menu items printed in Verlag?” asked Viktor. He smiled widely.

Einda and Harvey looked at each other and in perfect unison said, “Verlag? Heck, yeah!”.

Viktor drove them to the mysterious restaurant. Once there, he stopped and said with great relish, “Ta-da!.”

“Welcome to Wendy’s. How may I help you?” asked the cashier.