By Gerry Mulvaney, European Sales Manager, Landa Digital Printing
The world of type design lost another great name this year with the announcement of the death of Adrian Frutiger at the age of 87. With Herman Zapf dying earlier in 2015, typography and calligraphy have become eminently poorer for their loss.
Those outside of print and graphic arts may not recognise the Frutiger name, but they will recognise the typefaces he designed over the last sixty years or so. His most famous type font – Univers, has been used by many great companies including today’s eBay and Apple. A stroll around modern London will reveal his Univers Bold Condensed on every street corner, since it is used for all of London’s street signs.
Street corner sign in London Borough using Adrian Frutiger’s typeface
Adrian Frutiger was born in Bern in Switzerland in 1928 and started his career as a compositor in a Zurich printer. As part of his apprenticeship he studied calligraphy in Zurich and started engraving and drawing as a hobby. He progressed to font design and eventually joined the famous French type foundry of Deberny & Peignot. He became its artistic director and developed fonts such as Online, President and the ubiquitous Univers, which he had started designing when he studied at the Kunstgewerbeschule School Applied Arts in Zurich.
Although he designed some serif typefaces like Meridien and Didot, he is best remembered for his sans-serif fonts that avoid the projecting lines and features of the Roman serif faces. He suggested himself that typography in Switzerland was much more orientated towards the sans-serif adding tartly that “much can be covered up by serifs but the clean smooth lines of the sans serif demand much more from the designer”.
A Lasting Legacy for the World of Print
In 1960 he branched out on his own, setting up his own studio in Paris. It was to prove a good move, since he was commissioned to produce the signage for the new Charles de Gaulle Airport in the early ‘70s. In 1976 the typeface he christened with his own name, a typeface which is regarded as particularly legible, was adopted by the country of his birth for the nation’s road signage. He was responsible for dozens of typefaces over a career spanning more than fifty years and bridging the gap between hot metal and photo-typesetting.
Adrian Fruitger at work
He regarded Avenir as his masterpiece but it is Univers for which he will be most remembered. The legibility and flexibility of the design make it stand out and Frutiger explained that he liked the visual balance between the thick and thin strokes in the vertical and horizontal axis. The clarity of the design made it perfect for use in signage and display – examples include Disney World, Frankfurt Airport, JFK New York and the Munich Olympic games.
Adrian Frutiger has left a lasting legacy to be used by future generations. It is highly likely that in fifty years’ time we will still be using and admiring the beautiful type fonts he created, perhaps on new digital devices, in new media and on packaging materials that have yet to be invented.
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