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The creator of the Univers has died.


Yes, that’s right. The creator of the univers has died aged 87.

Adrian Frutiger, the Swiss typographer, who created classic typefaces Univers, Avenir, and my long time favourite Frutiger died this week at the ripe old age of 87.

He was fascinated by all things typographic from an early age. He loved scripts and symbols but wanted to be a sculptor. His father, however, did not approve of artistic ambitions and got him an apprenticeship with a printer. He did though eventually get into the Zurich School of Applied Arts. Here he would excel at making Roman inscriptions which fuelled his desire to work on typography.

By 1952 he was in Paris working for a top Type foundry.

“I first experienced the power of type in making the whole intellectual world readable with the same letters in the days of metal,” he wrote in his book ‘Typefaces: The Complete Works.’

He believed the best typefaces to be the ones that influenced the reader the least. No Palace Script or Old English for him then. His ambition was to create a clean, nondescript font that would become classic for use anywhere, that would communicate without influencing. He made many fonts including serifs Méridien and Didot. He is most famous for his sans serif creations though. He created Univers after being asked to develop the Futura typeface. He decided not to, instead insisting he create something completely new.

The Univers typeface was created in 10 days. He drew it on scrap card and then pieced it together. It set new standards for typeface design with 21 variations each identified by his unique numbering system using two digits (67 for example) the first signifying the font weight, and the second the font width.carnabySt

This font has appeared globally on signage as it is such a clear and easy to read design. There is probably an example of it near you. It became extremely popular with the large corporates too. A small computer company called Apple took to it as did the Deutsche Bank and General Electric. It has been called an absolute masterpiece, though Frutiger himself remained quite humble about its use.

He turned his eye to Frutiger (my personal favourite) in 1975. To create one masterpiece is good, to create several is masterful. Frutiger, as with Univers, became popular with graphics designers, and of course corporates, airports, and the miltary. Its clarity and distinction was subtle but present and its technical brilliance was astonishing.

As prominent typographer Roger Black said, “He combined great design talent with a very modern theory of the way type should work, so the type is beautiful, and also enormously useful.”

Unfortunately his personal life was not so happy. When both of his daughters commited suicide when still young he decided to set up a foundation for mental health research. They called it the Adrian and Simone Frutiger Foundation.In 1994 he moved back to Switzerland to carry on his work udating older typeface versions. He died on 10 September in Bremgarten Bei Bern.His legacy in typography will live on for many more years.

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