Helvetica is the neutral typeface. So neutral that it is used in almost every business, every store, it is plastered all over Time Square. Yet no one seems to notice it. The most common typeface is not recognized by the public because they see it on a daily basis. It is on TV, in stores, on computers and books. The Helvetica documentary by Gary Hustwit delves into the typeface, showing its history, designers opinions on it, and how it affects our society.
Helvetica is incredibly bland. It is neutral, which means that it doesn’t convey emotion. Even though type can actually be expressive, unlike what Massimo Vignelli said in the documentary, Helvetica is not expressive in the slightest. It is best for conveying information, showing you what is new in stores, or what letters are on your keyboard, or what your e-mail says. It is informative, and that is about it. It is not expressive, it does not insight any sense of emotion or feelings within me. It is just bland.
Off the subject of Helvetica, an idea expressed in this documentary states that type should be straightforward, and grid like. I disagree with this, for type can be whatever the designer is trying to convey. It does not need to be locked into certain places, it can be creatively driven in different ways like making things off centered or tilted, mixing things up instead of being stuck in-between the lines.
However something that was conveyed in the documentary was that people should not confuse legibility with communication. I completely agree with this. You do not have to be able to read something in order for it to communicate with you. That is what paintings can do, and that is what typography can do as well.