Join Gary Hustwit for an in-depth discussion in this video Erik Spiekermann, part of Helvetica.
I will not read anything unless I've identified the typeface. That's, that's an occupational hazard. Which this, that is fairly easy because, I know most of the stuff already. But I get a new magazine, and I will go and buy weird magazines. Nice little trainspotting stuff, at, at WH Smith or whatever and, and take them home and check what they're using. Probably to find out what people are doing these days, because I'm interested in company that, that you know, makes fonts and says them but also because I, I may learn something.
There's some cool stuff out there. People from South America are now doing stuff that's different from ours because it's South American. And, the only problem is, that my eyes obviously aren't getting any better so now I've got to get out a magnifying glass to identify a seven point type. And I may not know it and then I run home and look it up. I hate not knowing what something is. It really annoys me. So that's, that's, that's the one thing, yeah. And I do read big font books in bed. My favorite of the alphabet is the lowercase a. It's the friendliest, it's the most significant. It's the first.
It's, it's the most complex to design because it, you know, it crosses the, the plane three times. There's a top, a middle and a bottom. And there's a lot of variations in there. You have to do a lot with it, you can do a lot with it. It is how I identify every type face because the a is the most, has the most, latitude. And, I just, I like the look of it. It looks like sort of little guy with a fat tummy. I just, I just totally love it. And my second favorite is the capital R by the way. I have no idea why. because it's ugly. I just love it also.
And the lowercase g is third. I know it's more than you wanted. I like cracking serious problems, like right now we're, we're, we have to start redesigning all the timetables for the German railway. And it's very nerdy, but you know what, that chuff gets printed 50, 000,000 times every day. It's everywhere, on every station. And if I can make that aid work a little better, so people don't make mistakes or don't go to their own platform or read their own time because of designed a typeface for them. Which is more legible already, but I can design all this so I can also make a little, a little more pleasant to look at.
because it's not designed wrong, it's just printed. It looks like crap. And that stuff is what makes a, a nation's conscience, the visual surrounding. You know, good architecture, good food, and, and, and good time tables. Or, or good announcements, on, on the walls of stations. I think that's a very important culture contribution. I think it's much more important than writing poems. Not that that's important, but you know what I mean, I can reach a large audience with that. The money is crap. And I'm fighting against the system because nobody wants me to interfere there. You know, and you don't have a win merits with that. You can't make the most amazing design, most people won't even know it's changed, that is in fact the point.
Nobody is supposed to know it's changed, it just got better. And, and, and I like that challenge, I, I like being the unknown designer. You know, I designed the signs from and underground No what 12 years ago. And you wouldn't know. You weren't suppose to know. You're supposed to work. And you should've seen the stations 20 years ago. They were crap. There was no maps. Badly lit. The signs were illegible. The whole place was rubbish, and now the place is, at least durable. At least it works. At least it's not such an unpleasant environment and, and our work is, it gets a lot of credit for that.
I take some credit for that. And, and I think that, that is my contribution. But, it doesn't say design by that would be horrible. It's, it's done, people are not supposed to know what, I get kicks out of. I know, I did this, I did that. And you know, that's my typist, that's my sign. I love that. And I love the fact that nobody else does. Not because I'm modest, I'm as vain as the next guy when it comes to it, but I still get a kick out of that, being that sort of, the, the unknown author behind all of this stuff. >> Tell me if the PC's had it, they don't know the difference... >> No, it's become a, we design stuff or Bun and Borsche...
And the, the IT guys, everybody in there just takes it as a bench mark. The' the our stuff is way better. It's more legible, it's pretty It's like oh no, it's going to be exactly the size and height and every single pixel has to be equivalent even though that's a crap typeface, because it's, it is a bench mark. No, the, it, it, it can't be a cause, you know, it's, what happens is, have any totally perfect. It's really, for what it is, it's perfect. It has been improved a few times. They are very, okay we look at today, is, you know, not what we looked at in 1957.
It's really, is a great, lot of people have, invested a lot of skills in it. And then somebody like Microsoft, you know, a company without any taste, as, as Steve Jobs once said. And you can see that, they go on and say, okay this is very successful. For, for some reasons Steve Jobs put on the first Macintosh on the first pod screen printer, the 13 core one of them was For whatever reason he had a lot of type of specimen there we don't know. It was generic. So that oh we we need this because it's, it's it's a standard. We can't, not, not have it. But, we are not going to pay a lot of time, any money for it because we're Microsoft.
We're going to ask somebody, in this case Monotype in, in England, to design it for us but not design it for us. In other words, we take the width, so the space that every character takes from Helvetica. And we slightly change the characters. And of course if you have a perfect type change it. It can go better, there's no better than perfect, it can only go worse, QED. So, it went worse, and the poor guy Robin Nicholas, and, and Patricia who did it at Monotype, I feel kind of sorry for them because you can't win. You know, if somebody gave me a very good resign I would refuse.
If I was employed at Monotype, I probably couldn't refuse, they didn't refuse, so it made it worse. They changed things deliberately, but they had to fit in that, in that, in that, corset of the width, you know, the lowercase i, i, and the e and o, it takes the same space. because what happens is, if you print something in or set something or do whatever, in Helvetica and you don't have Arial. It, it'll take the same space and vice versa. And now there's a couple more types that have the same issue. So if, if it, if a document in Helvetica moves from the Mac to the, to the PC, it moves from Helvetica to Arial or back or whatever.
So it, it the will be in the same space. The line in it should be identical. It would just look a little worse. And the muotive was taught despicably. And markers have again, recently with photograph. The new one for, for the witnesses and the vista that's coming out next spring, if ever. hey didn't pay license to have, they had to get it for Which is, of course, the much better typeface than Helvetica ever. It's really a very beautiful and a great typeface. And they designed their own con segue where they asked somebody else to do that, who, who shall remain nameless. Even though I, I know him.
And it's a, you know, it's pretty much the same thing. It's, it's the same width. It looks a little different if you look at details. It has rounded eye dots and stuff. But the brief was, redesign this so we wont have to pay a license fee. because Microsoft are just really, really bad people when it comes too that. And they're so bad that the big bullies, you know, people would do that for them. At least, though, for, for, for mankind in future, there is hope that maybe the standard we move from Arial to a Segovia or fruiterer, at least that's a cultural improvement, an improvement for legibility.
But Microsoft that is, that's one reason I, I won't go near a Microsoft product. They really are despicable people that don't respect interaction property earners. Just And they have to save pennies? Microsoft? Poor people. 3.5 million, billion dollars in the bank cash. They can't pay license fees, Christ sake. Makes you sick. They're mean bastards. Even though Matthew did some cool stuff for them, you know but. They still remain bastards. >> I know one day they, they'll walk in here with a few thousand dollars, I wonder what I'd say, you know. I may be corrupted, so I'm not saying I'm a hero.
They haven't asked me yet. They won't, because I'm on record as, I caught them, I just caught them
The documentary explores urban spaces in major cities and the type that inhabits them, and offers a fluid discussion with renowned designers about their work, the creative process, and the choices and aesthetics behind their use of type. Helvetica encompasses the worlds of design, advertising, psychology, and communication, and invites us to take a second look at the thousands of words we see every day. Interviewees in Helvetica include some of the most illustrious and innovative names in the design world, including Erik Spiekermann, Matthew Carter, Massimo Vignelli, Wim Crouwel, Hermann Zapf, Neville Brody, Stefan Sagmeister, Michael Bierut, David Carson, Paula Scher, Jonathan Hoefler, Tobias Frere-Jones, Experimental Jetset, Michael C. Place, Norm, Alfred Hoffmann, Mike Parker, Bruno Steinert, Otmar Hoefer, Leslie Savan, Rick Poynor, Lars Müller, and many more.
Make sure to watch the bonus features included in the Extras chapter for more insights from these designers.