Though my blog post is a little behind, I wanted to write about the documentary our class watched on Helvetica. Though typeface may seem like a pretty boring subject at first, watching the documentary can really get you interested in the typeface of ads, signs, texts, etc. As Dr. Davis pointed out, watching the film can make you start paying attention to the typefaces around you.
The YouTube video I posted within this post is an extra interview with Erik Spiekermann, who does an interview during the Helvetica film. In the film, he comes off as a typeface designer who really hates how Helvetica has taken over modern typeface. However, this interview shows another side of his opinion on Helvetica; regarding Microsoft (the beginning of the interview is pretty amusing, you get to see the personal side of him, his obsession with typefaces, etc.).
During the second half of the interview, the viewer gets to see the competitive, corporate side of Typeface design—the history of Arial. According to Spiekermann, Arial came out of Microsoft’s desire to avoid paying licensing fees to the owners of Helvetica. Arial was designed by a few typeface designers at Monotype in Britain, at the request of Microsoft. The purpose: create a “Helvetica” typeface slightly different from Helvetica so that Microsoft would not have to pay licensing fees for the typeface. According to Spiekermann, Helvetica is a “perfect” typeface for its purposes, and because Microsoft had Helvetica redesigned, they actually made a perfect typeface worse (if something is perfect, it cannot be made better, only worse). The result: Spiekermann hates Arial because it effectively made Helvetica worse and set a benchmark as a bad design. He goes on to explain, negatively, what kind of company Microsoft is for doing such a thing to Helvetica.
In an economic sense, redesigning Helvetica to cut costs makes sense, but to the typeface world, Microsoft created a bad typeface, setting a benchmark for bad design across the typeface world. Though I am no expert on typefaces by any means, I can only hope that Arial does not continue to be the “benchmark” typeface that Spiekermann claims it to be.