One of the more plusible adjectives for describing Helvetica to a stranger would be “neutral”. If type is really the perfume of the city—a conceit of the film—then Helvetica has a scent that doesn’t smell. In this respect, “Helvetica” touches upon Foucaultian themes of control and power—threads that may acquire a new life in the subtle context of type design, particularly in the urban environment. Helvetica’s ubiquity on official documents and signs has come to embody a certain sense of stability and confidence in tomorrow. Planes won’t crash, houses won’t be robbed, nothing bad will happen: these are the indirect messages sent out by Helvetica type in the streets or in the office.
Hustwit’s film insists on the ethical responsibilities of designers towards society at large. The
decisions they make may incline the people around them to be more complicit or more rebellious, to strive for more diversity or for more neutrality and homogeneity.
It closes suggesting metrosexuals (whatever that is; the latest term for people who are cool or sophisticated?) can head to the cinema for an education. I do not recommend their form of education, but it does appear the children of this world are still in their generation wiser than some.