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Friday, March 28, 2008

Helvetica: the movie


Martha was not sure about it. She wondered why I would get a Netflkix documentary movie on a font-type: helvetica. But since we had it, I said I'd watch it and she could join me as far into the movie as she was interested. For an hour and a half we sat transfixed and completely engaged as we entered the world of graphic design, specifically the fonts chosen to illustrate words.
All around my office are fonts: the titles of books aligned side-ways in bookshelves. Most of the titles are in helvetica. I'm not a font-guy or fussy about type. But listening to graphic designers both pro and con-helvetica (yes, there are heated arguments about helvetica not unlike mac/pc arguments).
The question that settled in my brain after the movie is this: is it the package or the content of the package that matter more? Is the design of the words more important than the choice of the words? Is it style or substance? Where is the line in between?
Much of the discussion within the emerging church community and established church community is more about font-choice than substance. Does a church "look" emergent enough? Does a church have a name (se post from yesterday) that is hip-enough for post-moderns? Do old-font churches distract from the message because the way they are packaged (architecture, nomenclature, music, clergy) looks like it came from the middle ages?
It's a movie worth seeing.

7 Comments:

At 2:53 PM , Blogger Erika Haub said...

I have a friend who LOVES this movie. He does design work so it makes sense that he would connect with the film. I remember my good friend, then his fiance, telling me about actually going to the film's premiere with him.

I would really like to see it--too bad our Inelliflix (ghetto version of Netflix) ran out...

 
At 8:52 PM , Blogger Rick said...

Don't have an opinion on the font; haven't seen the movie but I am intrigued by your description. But re the whole topic of design I remember hearing a person in the design field make the observation that the whole 2000 election fiasco in Florida was at its core a design issue, i.e., the person who designed the "butterfly ballot".

 
At 10:29 PM , Blogger Dan said...

"Do old-font churches distract from the message because the way they are packaged (architecture, nomenclature, music, clergy) looks like it came from the middle ages? "

But isn't the "middle ages" look kind of what some of emergent is about- i.e. 'ancient-future' worship, the use of more traditional liturgies, the reappearance of robes, candles, incense, etc.?

Or by "middle ages" did you mean those evangelical churches filled with the middle aged parents of the emergent congregations?

 
At 8:11 AM , Blogger donnjohnson said...

It seems that this conversation about style vs content links back to Aristotelian vs Platonic: the ideal vs the real. What do you think?

 
At 7:44 PM , Blogger The Gnat's Trumpet said...

This is an interesting debate. I often think I have concluded that content is all that really matters only to find that form is important as well. I think great art is separated from the pedestrian because it possesses both.

 
At 3:18 PM , Blogger Dan said...

I don't know if the discussion of style in this content here is the same as the Aristotelian vs Platonic: the ideal vs the real debate.

At least those philosopical grapplings with the expereince of this world were attempts to understand and answere the big questions of life in this world.

It seems to me the issue you are raising is more about the emptying out of any substance in our image driven culture where as Os Guionness observes "style has become an end in itself."

"The term 'style' has traditionally identified the leading characteristic or ruling taste of a period or school....The style, therefore, is a s enduring as the period itself... NO longer expressive of substance or inner character, style is all that matters now. No longer enduring, it is transient, changeable, and fashion-oriented...And style is the art of skillfully presenting illusions as we walk down the corridor of images that make up modern society." (Os Guinness, "Fit Bodies Fat Minds")

 
At 4:03 AM , Anonymous Bob Brague said...

How ironic that this discussion of Helvetica (and its implications for churches) is displayed in Arial.

 

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