“From all these experiences the most important thing I have learned is that legibility and beauty stand close together and that type design, in its restraint, should be only felt but not perceived by the reader.”
Adrian Frutiger is considered to be one of the most important type designers of the 20th century and continues to influence typographic communications in the 21st century. He is best known for his sans serifs Univers and Frutiger.
Frutiger was born in Switzerland in 1928 near Interlaken. He was apprenticed in that town to the printers Otto Schaeffli as a compositor after his father refused to allow him to train as a sculptor. Frutiger has said that his enthusiasm for sculpture has persisted and finds expression in the types he designs. Between 1948 and 1951 Frutiger studied at the Kunstgwerbeschule in Zürich, where his subjects included calligraphy.
Charles Peignot recruted Frutiger for Deberny et Peignot after seeing a brochure he had produced, History of letters, which used his wood-engraving skills. The typefounders Deberney et Peignot were connected with the Lumitype/Photon photosetting machine, which needed typefaces adapted to suit. Charles Peignot wanted Frutiger to adapt Futura and this provided the impetus for Univers. Frutiger found Futura too geometric for his taste. He also wanted to create a large matched family of faces of different weights. The 21 members of the Univers family were all designed before the first matrix was struck. Many founders followed Deberny et Peignot in producing large sans-serif type families of their own; Haas, for instance, developed Helvetica.
Although Frutiger has said that all his types have Univers as their skeleton, he felt, when he came to design a face for the Charles de Gaulle Airport, that Univers seemed dated, with a 1960s feel. His airport face, originally known as Roissy but renamed Frutiger for its issue to the trade by Mergenthaler Linotype in 1976, is a humanistic sans serif that has been compared to Gill and Johnston types. In 1986 Frutiger received the Gutenberg Prize for technical and aesthetic achievement in type.
Since the late 1990s Frutiger has supervised the digital recutting of his sans serif Univers, Frutiger and Avenir, using the latest technology. The completely recut Linotype Univers now has 63 weights. and true italics. Working with Linotype Library type director Akira Kobayashi, Frutiger reworked the weights of Avenir, also adding condensed versions to create Avenir Next.¹