Ed Driscoll

Mad Men Goes Helvetica

Danger! Serious font wonkery ahead! Proceed with caution!

At about the 10:15 mark in last week’s show, after first noticing Peggy’s gams of course, then the Eero Saarinen chair they’re resting on, I spotted an interesting poster in the right-hand corner of the shot. Click above photo to enlarge.

As the image wasn’t onscreen very long, all I saw were the words “Helvetica,” so I thought perhaps it was the poster for the 2007 documentary of the same name. But while Mad Men “plays fast and loose with period fonts,” as James Lileks once mentioned to me (and they do), I didn’t think they’d play that fast and loose with with their artwork in general.

Fortunately, it’s not the poster for the movie (which looks like this), but a poster advertising the font itself, from the early 1960s. Click here to see it full size.

But can the firm of Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce avoid its siren call?

Don’t do it boys! You’ll be sorry! You’re about to watch “Starting from Zero” absolutely envelop the 1960s, culminating in the hell of Haight-Ashbury. You’re just helping the design world press the collective ctrl-alt-delete buttons as well:

[youtube VDLPAE9wLEU]

And for much more on Mad Men and the times it portrays, don’t miss my lengthy podcast interview with Natasha Vargas-Cooper, online here.