Have you seen Helvetica, Gary Hustwit's documentary about the near-ubiquitous font? You should. I was recommending it to a non-design-geek friend recently and realised again what a tough sell it is. It's ostensibly about a font, which must be off-putting for a lot of people. Spend nearly two hours of my life watching a film about a subtle variation in the shapes of letters? Er… I'll go and see Toy Story 3 again, thanks very much*.
But I'd say it's not really about that at all. Yes, it is indubitably a hymn to Helvetica (font-porn, anyone?), but the typeface is actually a clever device that allows the filmmaker to explore the differences and the tension between the broader modernist and post-modernist movements. He interviews enough industry movers and shakers to make up a whole fantasy graphic design team and they're split down the middle between the two movements. Broadly speaking, the modernists love Helvetica and the Post-Modernists hate it. The resulting discussions cut to the heart of the tension between these inextricably interrelated movements better than any text-book explanation could. As in the best haiku, the most insignificant subject matter communicates more than a grandiose epic could.
It got me to thinking though. What movement are we part of now? I'm talking about the movement towards data-driven decision making, ever deeper understanding of our users and customers and the focus on their experience with our services and products. The movement towards continual growth, learning and agile adaptation.
In one sense, it's absolutely modernist in the sense that it rejects the traditional way of doing things for new ideas and methods enabled by cutting edge technology. But that doesn't really do it justice – every movement from the 20th Century onwards can pretty much be lumped under modernism. So what's the specific ideology of the web right now?
Empiricism is already taken and doesn't really cover it anyway. How about Optimalism? Experiencism? Suggestions, please.
* I really do want to go and see Toy Story 3 again.