How We Built Britain… With Arial!?
Last week The Art Of The Title Sequence featured the opening sequence for How We Built Britain, the landmark BBC One show that aired over June and July 2007. The six-part television series was written and presented by David Dimbleby, and gave a revealing insight into the British character through the extraordinary landscape of Britain’s buildings.
Travelling around the country to the different regions, David told the dramatic stories of how one particular period of architecture gave each region its unique character. In the course of the series, he explored the buildings that define a nation, which grew out of the experiences and beliefs of the British people – from the half-timbered villages of Shakespeare’s England to the dramatic mills and mansions of the Victorian North, and the cathedrals and manor houses of medieval East Anglia.
The title sequence recreates a journey through Britain in 30 seconds, inserting imaginary letter shaped buildings in the landscape. Each letter represents a different architectural style, and are combined to form the word “Britain” in the final title card. It is a beautiful and very convincing production, were it not for one major flaw – why on earth did they use Arial!? Fair enough, it was designed by Robin Nichols and Patricia Saunders for Monotype, so technically it is British, but the roots of this poor man’s Helvetica are undeniably Swiss. I wish they had gone for a quintessential British typeface like Gill Sans, whose Heavy or Extra Bold weight do exactly what Arial does, but so much more elegantly. P22 Underground/ITC Johnston are also potential candidates, yet they have no sufficiently heavy weights to accommodate the volumes of the buildings. Now that limp leg on the R sadly mars the sequence, and that is a real shame.
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