Interview mit Gary Hustwit

Hustwit, Regisseur des Helvetica Dokumentarstreifens ( arbeitete früher als Grafiker, später bewegte er sich in Richtung Film. Er begann mit Dokumentarsstreifen über die Bands Death Cab for Cutie oder Wilco, besonders angetan hat es ihm die Musik Sam Prekops. Auch in „Helvetica the Movie“, seinem Debüt als Regisseur spürt man diese Einflüsse. Hustwit ist Amerikaner, einsfünfundsechzig, mit kurzen braunen Haare, mitte Dreissig und ein kleiner Sympath. Seit seiner erfolgreichen Welttournee mit Helvetica ist er aber vor allem eines: Hochzufrieden. Ich fische ihn von der Tanzfläche. Seine Interviewtechnik: Frag mich jetzt, bevor ich nachher zu blau bin. Er gibt mir fünf Minuten

von Hannes Grassegger


Mr. Hustwit. Satisfied with today's swiss premiere?

Definitely yes! It’s my first film though, I’ve never before directed a film. I like the way it connects people.

If Helvetica would be a Person. Would it be a her? A him?

I think it’s a her. A short haired brunette, she’d have a pale complexion, maybe 5.8 ft, sort of a slender and athletic built person. Maybe 25 years old

You don’t imagine her to be this kind of an everyday person?

No! No, no (laughs). I think Helvetica depends on how you use it, but …aahm… i think she can be very sexy. Look at all this fashion and cosmetic companys using helvetica. There is something very glamorous about it.

At the end of the movie you are showing the Helvetica addicted Experimental Jet Set. Is this your statement about the ongoing debate concerning the character of Helvetica?

Experimental Jet Set are just the next generation of Helvetica users. I think it’s only the next step after things like late modernism, post modernism and those movements. I looked at them as people having grown up with Helvetica all around, school books and stuff. There is this ongoing push and pull thing in both, arts and design, may it be fashion or music. Order versus chaos. That goes for always back and forth, back and forth, reacting against each other and combing in interesting ways. You have only seen a tiny bit of that in the film, it went from order to chaos to order again. I think now it’s going back to chaos again. Those movements are part of creativity, a different kind of creativity. I think it’s interesting to see how all of these movements come together in typefaces, especially in Helvetica.

So you just used Helvetica to mirror these changes.

Sure, but also the technological changes. You see, the film started with these old metal types and it ends up on the web. Look what just happened in this short period of time! And also with typography. I think 20 years ago nobody knew what this or that typeface is, and nowadays everybody uses typefaces just like a perfume that you can put on and off like you do with your email and stuff. Little eight year old kids have their favourite fonts already. That never happened in history before, it has always been a very distinct branche, and now it is completely democratized. It’s such an interesting moment! What will happen in ten or twenty years from now? What is graphic design then? Children having grown up with using different fonts, what will they produce? With my film I wanted to take a snapshot of this situation and also capture the last 50 years. Maybe in 50 years i’ll do the „100 Years Helvetica“ Documentation (laughs).

What about the future of your film?

Oh! It will run in 100 cities, special events like tonight and normal arthouses, too. It will be on TV here in europe and in the US. The DVD will be released in summer with so many extras, all the interviews, I think I could do a whole Erik Spiekerman disc. (Kein Wunder)

What about the clash between Carson and Spiekerman?

I don’t think it’s a clash. They’re both provocateurs, good at speaking, and they’ve been doing this for so long. Spiekerman is so animated and Carson has this laid back style, but both like to push peoples buttons a little. That’s why they are good in design business, they like to express opinions. It’s a show. I think it’s an intellectual challenge.

Do you see a relation between this cliché of Switzerland and Helvetica?

Yes sure. It’s this international style, late modernism, the Zurich School all these designers of the late 50s, early sixties. I think I can look back and see their quest for objectivity and rationalism and not biasing the information via a typeface somehow. I think i can totally agree, though I haven’t spent enough time in Switzerland but it relates to the way Switzerland is looked at from other countries. That’s one of the reasons why it did so well at the time. everybody wanted it. You have to look at the time when it wasn’t so easy to get that typeface. You had to call Alfred Hoffmann, or even send him a letter and order like one or two tons of metal. People really had to want it, they couldn’t just download it. And also, there wasn’t that much experimentation going on, you had to use typefaces for years and years. If you wanted that Swiss Style or Intenational Style you had to use Helvetica. That was the way it was marketed in the UK and the US. Swiss design in a can. Use Helvetica and here it is!

Many people say Helvetica is neutral. But there are so many contributions added to this typeface. Did you find a character of Helvetica, or do you think it is neutral?

I don’t think it is neutral. It’s more about organisation and clarity. It works with the rationalisation of chaos. It’s the idea of being efficient. Here is the information in the easiest and quickest way. That’s the goal of this typography, not to be neutral.

Maybe that is what explains the strong use of Helvetica nowadays, in a world of so much information?

Exactly. Look at all the mass media, the information fodder everywhere. We need this sort of clean cut through that. All these crazy things around. We don’t need them in crazy colours and lettering. Sometimes I need the information clean, pure and direct.

So what are your future projects like in comparison to your Helvetica documentary?

Oh...i have a bunch of projects going on. Before that I will tour around the whole globe for half a year presenting it to the audience. But the next thing will hopefully be more direct. Like hanging around with maybe Tom Waits for two weeks or something. Just hang out and film, no questions, no answers. It is funny. I originally started with the idea to make Helvetica a more atmospheric, less structured movie than it ended up being. But then the project and the people in it took over and the film developed a live of its own. Sometimes you have to follow what the subject matter implies and let it lead you where it wants to go. Helvetica wanted the film to be like it is now.

So do you agree with the opinion that Helvetica implies a whole concept, an idea?

Yes, totally. It’s something like Manuel Krebs (Norm) mentioned in the film. It’s the shape of Helvetica with all these squares and straight lines that makes you want to have things lined up and be in order.



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