Adrian Frutiger (24 May 1928 – 10 September 2015)

Adrian Frutiger is a renowned twentieth century Swiss graphic designer. His forte was typeface designing and he is considered responsible for the advancement of typography into digital typography. His valued contribution to typography includes the typefaces; Univers and Frutiger.

Adrian Frutiger was born on May 24, 1928, in Unterseen, Canton of Bern to weaver parents. At the very young age, he began experimenting with stylized handwriting and invented scripts, defying the formal, cursive penmanship then taught at Swiss schools. His interest in sculpturing was not met with very encouraging views by his father and teachers. However, they supported the idea of him going into print. Consequently, he entered the world of print yet kept his love for sculpturing alive by incorporating the sculpture designs in his typefaces. He began his apprenticeship, at the age of sixteen, as a compositor to the printer Otto Schaerffli, for four years. He also attended school of applied arts, Kunstgewerbeschule in Zürich. Here he thrived under the supervision of art instructors like Walter Käch and Alfred Willimann. Frutiger studied monumental inscriptions from Roman forum rubbings, although he primarily focused on calligraphy rather than drafting tools.

Frutiger illustrated the essay, Schrift / Écriture / Lettering: the development of European letter types carved in wood, which earned him a job offer at the French foundry Deberny Et Peignot by Charles Peignot. His wood-engraved essay illustrations displayed his meticulous skills and knowledge of letterforms. At the foundry, he designed various typefaces including Ondine, Méridien, and Président. Upon witnessing his marvelous work, Charles Peignot assigned Frutiger to convert extant typefaces for the new Linotype equipment, phototypesetting.

In 1954, Frutiger’s first commercial typeface Président was released. It was designed in a manner that showcased a set of titling capital letters with small, bracketed serifs. It was followed by Ondine, a calligraphic, informal, script face which translated as Wave in French. Then Méridien appeared the following year, illustrating a glyphic, old-style, serif text face. The typefaces were inspired by Nicholas Jenson’s work. Frutiger clearly demonstrated his ideas of letter construction, unity, and organic form in Méridien. In a few years, he designed slab-serif typefaces. Egyptienne was one of those typefaces that had him commissioned for photocomposition.

During early 1970s, upon the request of the public transport authority of Paris, Frutiger inspected the Paris Metro signage. Moreover, he recreated Univers typeface in a variant font. It was a set of capitals and numbers designed for white-on-dark-blue backgrounds visible especially under poor lighting. Upon the successful reception of this modern typeface, the French airport authority commissioned him yet again to work for the new Charles de Gaulle International Airport. He was required to design a way-finding signage alphabet and in such way that is both legible from afar and from any angle. Frutiger first decided to adapt Univers typeface but then relinquished the idea considering a little outdated. He took a different approach to the matter and altered the Univers typeface and fused it with organic influences of the Eric Gill’s Gill Sans typeface. The resultant typeface was originally titled, Roissy, though it was named after Frutiger in 1976, when it was released for public use.

Other seminal typefaces created by Adrian Frutiger include Avenir, Versailles andVectora. He also tried to expand and modify these typefaces. He created sixty-three variants of Univers and he reissued Frutiger Next as an extension of Frutiger with true italic and additional weights. He won several awards for his contribution to typography such as The Gutenberg Prize, Medal of the Type Directors Club and Typography Award from SOTA.

See also