“In Helvetica. Period”: The ’60s in a Coke Ad

April 9, 2012 by Keyser Söze | Filed under Uncategorized.

This video pertains to some of your old friend Keyser’s latest interests, here like graphic design, sick typography and the Decline of Western Civilization. Oh, pilule and if you watch the show Mad Men, this gives you some idea of where it could be going if it actually wanted to say something meaningful about the ’60s rather than being naughty porn for SWPL women. Since the show is about an advertising agency, there would be some plot element in which changes in the style of graphic design symbolize broader changes in society. Instead, we have no real idea what their supposedly cutting-edge adverts (as the Brits say) are like, and instead we get to tut-tut the ad boys for not being nice to the negroes and swoon when Don Draper takes the bait and gives Mrs. Draper what she’s been yearning for on the floor.

Anyway, this video is from the movie Helvetica. Yes, you read that right (and proved it for yourself if you clicked the link). There’s a whole movie about the revolution brought about in graphic design in the ’60s by the font Helvetica. This scene here is totally cool. It gives you a real sense of what was going through the minds of modernist thinkers when they wanted to sweep away the Beaux Arts trash of the Victorian era and replace it with cold sweeping towers of glass and steel. I’m sure the Bolsheviks must have felt the same way in 1917, poised at the dawn of a new era when the corrupting rot of the past would be uprooted to make way for the glorious future of modernity! …And we all know how that story turned out.

Can you imagine how bracing and thrilling that [the new style of graphic design] must have been? That must have seemed that you could crawl through a desert, with your mouth just caked with filthy dust, and then someone’s offering you a clear, refreshing, distilled glass of water to clear away all this horrible kind of burden of history. It must have been fantastic.

And to some extent, this is true. Here’s the change in company name and logo he’s talking about:

You know, I can remember noting this sort of change back in the ’80s. The old National Drovers’ Bank and Trust Co. of Poughkeepsie would move to Delaware so it could change 47% interest on its credit cards and change its name to something bland like Ameribanc. It must say something about Keyser’s overall cultural allegiances that I generally preferred the old versions, with their images of a staid tradition, to some bland new plasticky moniker, but I guess that’s why Keyser never went into advertising.

Some of this stuff was cool.

Most of it not so much.

Oh, and for all you who don’t watch MM, here’s Don and Megan doing a Fifty Shades of Grey kind of thing.


9 Responses to ““In Helvetica. Period”: The ’60s in a Coke Ad”

  1. Fox 2! says:

    Helvetica is part of the Bauhaus movement, which begat the glass and steel Modernist monstrosities epitomized by the World Trade Center and the Seagrams building. I suspect they also influenced the Brutalist school (see DC’s Third Church of Christ, Scientist) and the Stalinist architecture of the USSR.

  2. Fox 2! says:

    Other than that, Helvetica is very legible, it’s just not readable.

  3. Keyser says:

    Oh, the legible/readable distinction. Somebody’s been reading up on design!

  4. Fox 2! says:

    No, just had some idiots decide to use Helvetica as the standard typeface when they changed from Selectrics to desktops for all the secretaries. Have you ever tried to read a 50 page daemonological text typed in Helvetica? Brutal. Worse than trying to read the Scroll of Skelos in the original, on the original virgin skin. But it’s modern, so it must be better.

  5. Fox 2! says:

    That should be “on the original virgin skin velum.”

  6. Keyser says:

    Funny you should say. I don’t think book I read is in a sans serif font. You can certainly sans serif in short texts (like ads), but I don’t recall it even in magazine articles. I’ll have to look into that. Thanks for pointing it out!

  7. Keyser says:

    It should also be noted that the Prince of Darkness (aka Bill Gates) ripped off Helvetica under the name Arial. That font is used all the time in webtext these days. But I can’t say as I’ve ever come across a daemonological work in either Helvetica or Arial, PoD notwithstanding.

  8. Fox 2! says:

    Well, these were engineersdaemonologists of a particular Southern province. More known for its intra- and inter-provincial schools of daemonology athletic competitions than its actual daemonology. They must have figured if it was legible, it had to be readable.

  9. Fox 2! says:

    And I thought Lucas was the Prince of Darkness. Or is his title limited to the automotive realm?

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