Join Gary Hustwit for an in-depth discussion in this video Wim Crouwel, part of Helvetica.
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Well in the 60s, I became very much interested in, in grid systems and digital systems. In the was the early time of computers, and I was heavily interested in this. And when I saw in a a large print exhibition in Germany in 1965. I saw the first digital typesetters from it as the first company who came with such a machine.
And the results were horrible, absolutely horrible. I thought if, if, if this is the future of the digital type setting it's, it's, it's a horror. Then I came to the idea to make another system of alphabets. I called it the new alphabet. This is a six-point Garamond from the digitized period. You see the dots here, especially the round, the roundings. The round are changing all the time.
If you have it twice as big, you have twice as much dots available and the, the whole sha, shape changes. The basic idea is still there but it changes all the time and this is what I couldn't stand for. I said let me do a typeface with only 90 degree angles and 45 degree roundings. So that, whenever it's big or small it's always the same even direction of of dots. So I publish it and said this is a theory, this is the way of thinking.
And typeface designers shoot design along these lines of thinking. It had a lot of response, this new alphabet. In that period, it made me travel all around the world to give lectures on it. It was a nice time for a few years, and I made posters and all sort of things that were more or less in the direction of that thinking, and I made the various variations. The define one the, the, the regular one, the bold one, the stretch one, and I said, well, you can use this alphabet, because it's unreadable.
It was a theoretical exercise. I never expected that anyone would use it. And then suddenly, in the 90s, I discovered they used this typeface in pop magazines or music. But they always made it a little more readable, you know. They changed the type until it became readable. I said, how is it possible? After 30 years, you suddenly reach, especially in England. Was all in England. And then it was I think 1997, 98, I was invited in England to give, again, lectures on this type phase.
I said Christ, this is old stuff for me. But there was a new interest. And then the foundry in London asked me, to digitize it really, so people could use it. I said, well you're allowed to do it, no problem, but nobody is going to use it because you can't read it. What I do not understand, but the young designers will understand. That they design with a mouse and not with a pencil. I can't. I always do my sketching by pencil first, and bring it to a certain level that I think, this is the idea, this is what I want.
And then I go to the computer and try to, to realize it. I see that young designers start on the computer with a mouse. We're not sketching, maybe they form their idea in their heads, like I do, too. Together with, with, with, a pencil. So, so that's what I don't understand. I don't, I hardly understand how people can think without a pencil. Without their fingers, and, and, and now it's straight from the eyes, through the head to the machine.
And maybe the mouse is replace of the pencil. Not that much changes in the world, I think. The the percentage of good work, good design from my view, my point of view good design, the percentage against the whole production of doesn't change at all. They produce much and much more, much more designers now, may be a 100 times more designers than there were in the 50s. But, the output is 100 times more.
So the percentage, of good design stays always the same, to my opinion. You see a lot of rubbish around you. But in the 50s, we saw a lot of rubbish around us, and the, the perception of the people doesn't change, to my opinion, that much. There is always a group of people that love good design. That are rec, have a reception for good design. But there's a larger group that doesn't understand anything.
They're not interested at all. So, my idea that I had in the 50s and 60s and 70s and the 80s, still is that you work for a rather small group of people. People who are culturally interested. And, well, these are the only people that interest me. And I'm not interested in all the other people. Like the other people aren't interested in me. And we shoot acceptance, I think. It's, I, I don't give a damn. That's it.
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.