ADRIAN FRUTIGER (1928-2015)
“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 was born in Bern, Switzerland, on 24 May, 1928, and was one of the most influential typeface designers from the 1950s until his death in 2015. He made some groundbreaking developments in digital typography, with some of his more notable work including the sans-serif fonts Univers, Avenir and, of course, Frutiger. His work can be seen all over the world, from John F Kennedy airport in the U.S.A., the Paris Metro, to the halls of Westminster in the U.K.
He first established his reputation as a world-class typeface designer with the Univers sans-serif font, created in 1957. Univers was an innovation at the time in that it was one of the world’s first font faces to have a wide-ranging family of fonts in various weights and widths, all the while retaining its consistency. This font is visible in various world famous signs and logos, for example, Walt Disney World signs, the eBay logo, CNN on-air graphics, Canadian subway systems and George W. Bush’s presidential campaign.
Frutiger started his career in Bern, the canton of his birth, though his initial desire was to become a sculptor. His ambition to become a sculptor was nixed by his father who did not permit his son to train in that profession. Instead, he got a job at the printers Otto Schaeffli as an apprentice compositor. Even though he was unable to train as a sculptor Frutiger noted that his interest in sculpture often informed his typeface designs.
After completing his apprenticeship at Otto Schaeffli, he moved to Zurich where he further enhanced his type and graphics skills from 1949 to 1951 at the Zurich School of Arts and Crafts (Kunstgewerbeschule) under the tutelage of Alfred Willimann and Walter Käch, two influential professors.
After moving to Paris in the early 50s he was talent spotted by Charles Peignot of Deberny et Peignot, a type foundry, following a brochure Frutiger had produced using his wood engraving skills, and was recruited to work as a typeface designer and artistic manager at Peignot’s firm. Deberney et Peignot worked with Lumitype/Photon photosetting machines, and needed to adapt typefaces to be used with such technology. Peignot asked Frutiger to adapt the font Futura, which Frutiger developed into what was to become Univers. As part of its development, he created a large 21-member family of different weights but with matching faces. These were manufactured as a matrix to be used for printing. Univers proved to be influential as other type founders followed suit in developing large sans-serif font families, for example, the firm Haas created Helvetica.
Frutiger received numerous awards and honors during his lifetime. In 1986, he received the Gutenberg Prize of the City of Mainz for technical and aesthetic achievement in type. In 1987, the Medal of the Type Directors Club of New York. In 1993, the Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In 1993, Grand Prix National des Arts Graphiques (France). In addition, he taught as a professor at the Ecole Estienne for ten years and at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, Paris for eight.
Towards the end of the 20th century and early 21st century, Frutiger continued to work and develop his typefaces, producing Linotype Univers in 1999, Frutiger Next in 2000, and Avenir Next in 2003. He also participated in a reworking of Meridien in collaboration with Akira Kobayashi, which was called Frutiger Serif by the typeface company Linotype to commemorate Frutiger’s 80th birthday. Before his death in 2015, he again worked with Kobayashi on another re-release of Frutiger, called Frutiger Neue, which was closer to the original Frutiger designs than Frutiger Next.