Adrian Frutiger was born in Switzerland on May 24th 1928. He had since then designed some of the most influential and iconic fonts of the 20th century, moving forwards. The list of font-achievements that came from Frutiger include Avenir, Frutiger, Univers and Didot among others. Univers (Designed in 1954) was one of the first sans serif fonts to include a complete system of different weights and styles and is considered an achievement of ‘structured-diversity’. When designing Univers, Frutiger took inspiration from classical roman type forms. His forms included variation in line wieght and subtle curves. This was an element of sans serif typography that had previously not been explored in great depth. In essence Frutiger managed to bridge the classical and the geometric schools of thought which were supposedly diametrically opposed at the time. The irony is that preexisting sans serif fonts which were highly geometric and hardly classical – were the fonts which were out of style. Contemporary fonts were moving towards the classical, Univers was the first font to come out for phototypesetting with such a broad range of styles. Frutiger was providing the advertising (and other) industries with a “new utility”.
In an interview Frutiger describes Helvetica as the “Blue Jeans” of type. They work in every circumstance, but they aren’t particularly stylish nor do they make any kind of statement. According to Frutiger “Compared to it, Univers is much more delicate and harmonious, and tends to be a little more stylish. That’s why I would prefer not to compare them. They are two completely different worlds.”
Frutiger lived through and thrived in three different stages of typographic technology, at 16 years old he went off to apprentice at a typesetter where he used traditional hot metal typesetting, later on in his career he would go on to use phototypesetting– most notably when designing the multifaceted Univers, and finally Frutiger would produce fonts later on in his career using digital methods. Again– Univers was one font that recieved a facelift through digital technology. While Frutiger embraced the digital as a tool, he has remarked on his preference for the tactile as opposed to the digital. When his process involved screens it was only to quickly check the outlines of shapes.
Univers, Frutiger and Avenir are world famous fonts that have been used in a plethora of famous places. Some included below.
This Swiss Passport uses the font ‘Frutiger’.
Univers Bold Compressed used on the title of this album by The Smiths.
Fed Ex Logo uses Univers Com 730 Basic Heavy
Ebay Logo Uses Universe 53 Extended*
*Side note, Frutiger used numbers to delineate different weights and styles of Univers with 55 (the center of a grid) representing its middle weight. This allowed its use as a truly “universal” font system. The names for different weights of fonts vary drastically from country to country and language to language.
Frutiger knew from a young age that his “world [was] a two-dimensional one” (Eye Magazine). By the age of sixteen he knew that he only wanted to work in black and white. While he is best known for; and he also considers his greatest work to be his contributions to typography. Frutiger also produced a body of personal work that explored natural forms and counterforms. He was very interested in symbology and its connection to the psyche. In an interview he highlighted his belief that symbols come directly from the human psyche and have something to say about the mental state of the drawer. His drawings which he mostly kept private throughout his life were released later in a book entitled Forms and Counterforms. Here one can see Frutiger’s direct inspiration from natural forms and may even begin to speculate that natural forms may have served as a semi influential element in his typographic work.
His interest in the human psyche was likely not coincidental, both of his daughters from his second marriage committed suicide in their adolescence. He and his wife founded the Fondation Adrian et Simone Frutiger which serves to contribute to research and developments in the field of psychological and neuroscience research.
Adrain Frutiger died just last year on September 15th. He lived through three major technological type paradigms, embraced each one and made major world reknowned contributions to typography and typographic utility at each stage. According to Frutiger, he was simply in the right place at the right time, but we can give him a little more credit than that. ♦