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EXPLORING

univers


If you remember the shape of your spoon at lunch, it has to be the wrong shape. The spoon and the letter are tools; one to take food from the bowl, the other to take information off the page... When it is a good design, the reader has to feel comfortable because the letter is both banal and beautiful.

ADRIAN FRUTIGER


A REVOLUTIONARY

concept

UNIVERS 55

AB C D EF GH IJ KLM NOPQRSTUV WXY Z a b c d ef ghijklm nopqr st uvwxyz

UNIVERS 45

A B C D EFG H IJKLM N OPQRST U VWX Y Z a b c d e f ghijklmn opqr stuvwxyz

UNIVERS 65

AB C D EF GH IJ KLM NOPQRSTUVWXY Z a b c d ef ghijklm nopqrstuv wx yz

UNIVERS 75

A B CDEFGHI JKLMNOP QR STU V WX Y Z a b c defghi j kl mnopqr stuvw x y z

Adrian Frutiger is one of the most import-

than ten years earlier his Iridium had

ant type designers to emerge since World

demonstrated that the classical modern

War II. He is the designer of many notable

face was neither outdated nor necessar-

faces—the best known being the sans ser-

ily caused legibility problems. Frutiger

ifs Univers and Frutiger—and was one of

himself is skeptical about theories of

the first designers to create type for film.

legibility.

Frutiger has created a broad range of

In 1957, when the Paris type foundry

typefaces including OCR-B a type for

Ebery et Peignot first distributed Univers,

optical character recognition. His 1982

two qualities set Frutiger’s new sans serif

Breughel is an original face almost wholly

apart from its predecessors: the com-

comprised of curves and fitting into no

patibility of all 21 members of the type

existing type category. He has embraced

family and the optical precision of each

new technology and used it to advantage

letterform, which was due to a reevalu-

in faces such as Centennial, a modern

ation of the legibility of more geometric

whose fine serifs are made possible by

sans serifs such as Futura.

recent improvements in definition. More 1


A FAMILY OF

twenty-one The creation of Univers was the first

is, the stroke weight moves from heavy

instance in the modern era of a designer

to light. Weight increase is indicated by

systematically developing nearly two-doz-

numeric increase.

en variations of one typeface. Frutiger elaborated on the concept of type families by creating an extensive, logically arranged palette of variations. The family’s book face, Univers 55, was the basis for 20 other variations; each font was unique yet compatible with all others.

The use of numeric variables, a key component of the system, was successful insofar as there was a sufficient degree of part by identical x-heights and consistent ascender/descender lengths. The integration of the 21 versions took three years of design effort and required cutting 35,000

Frutiger arranged the members of the

final matrices.

weight, and posture. The x-axis governs the letter width in a transition between expanded and condensed. Along the y-ax-

uuuu 45

uniformity within the family, achieved in

Using a designated numbering system, Univers family according to width,

INCREASING STROKE WEIGHT

DECREASING COUNTER SPACE

55

65

75


u

A UNIFIED SYSTEM THAT STARTED WITH UNIVERS 55

3


A SYSTEM OF

efficiency HORIZONTAL STROKE ENDINGS

A LINEAR QUALITY

To achieve the goal of an expansive, integrated type family, designers must be sensitive to the nuances of each letterform while simultaneously considering the overall system. In the case of Univers, this sophisticated approach to type-family design is supported by a well-considered set of typographical characters. Inspired by his study of the limitations of existing sans serifs, Frutiger began with the assumption that “a purely geometric

STROKE WEIGHT IS NOT UNIFORM, UNLIKE THE PERFECT CIRCLE (FUTURA)

BOTH THE BOWL AND THE COUNTER ARE ELIPSES INSTEAD OF CIRCLES TO CREATE FLOW UNIVERS 65

PERFECT CIRCLE (FUTURA)

character is unacceptable in the long run, for the vertical ones; an O represented by a perfect circle strikes us as shapeless and has a disturbing effect on the word as a whole.”


ygp STEMS EXPAND OUTWARD FOR FLARE

A distinctive feature of Univers is the strong horizontal flow created by lines of text. To achieve this flow, Frutiger made round letters, such as o, less smooth and more square, creating a more fluid relationship between letters such as n and m, which typically have square contours. Frutiger also created horizontal stroke endings in letters such as a, c, e, g and s, which contributes to the typeface’s linear quality.

RATHER THAN BEING PERFECTLY STRAIGHT

SUBTLE ANGLE CHANGES TO CREATE SPEED

5


AN UNDERSTANDING OF CAP HEIGHT / ASCENDER HEIGHT

2 3

4

X-HEIGHT

BASELINE 1 DESCENDER HEIGHT

1 BOWLS OF “e” AND “c” HANG BELOW THE BASELINE FOR STABILITY AS THE CHARACTER SITS 2 TITTLES ALIGN WITH THE ASCENDER HEIGHT TO ENHANCE CONSISTENCY 3 BOWLS OF “b” AND “p” HAVE BOWLS THAT ASCEND ABOVE THE X-HEIGHT FOR BALANCE 4 THE ASCENDER ON “t” DOESN’T REACH THE FULL CAP HEIGHT, AND IS SLANTED, BREAKING AWAY FROM THE SYSTEM

A X-HEIGHT RATIO THAT EMPHASIZES ON THE CENTER OF THE FORM

Frutiger’s decision to use different stroke

Ascenders and descenders were

thicknesses for the horizontal, diagonals,

shortened in comparison with existing

and verticals was a response to his assess-

typographic norms, and x-heights were

ment of visual discrepancies in other

increased. Larger x-heights also provided

typefaces. It is also no coincidence that

greater legibility, addressing the concern

Frutiger’s interest in creating a func-

that sans-serif type was more difficult to

tional and efficient type family followed

read than serif type. All of these innova-

well-documented scientific research done

tions contributed to the overall harmony

in the 1930s and ‘40s on the mechanics of

among letters, allowing for a smooth line

eye movement during reading.

flow.


VARIED TERMINAL WIDTHS

1

3

2

4

5

1

2

3 4

1

4

1

2

3

4

5

MN W 2

4

2

B

A

C

3

1

IRREGULAR COUNTER SHAPES / SIZES

B

A

B

A

A

5

C

3

C

B

1

3

A

5

B

4

2

A

B

C

ij

TITTLES WIDER THAN STEM

7


A DESIGN OF

variation While Frutiger’s goal was to make letters that fit together so flawlessly that the assemblage formed a new satisfying gestalt, he also deemed it important that individual letterforms remain distinct from one another. “Built up from a geometric basis,

sate for illusions in optical perception. The n is slightly larger than the u because white entering a letterform from the top appears more active than white entering from the bottom.

the lines must play freely,” Frutiger wrote,

Its form was also a visual expression

“so that the individuals find their own

of the optimism of the 1950s regarding

expression and join together in a cohesive

technology and mechanical sophistica-

structure in word, line, and page.”

tion. Like the Univers letterforms, many

To maintain the integrity of each letterform, careful optical adjustments were made, based on the current knowledge of the principles of perception. Vertical, diagonal, and horizontal strokes are all assigned different thicknesses to compen-

popular, “streamlined” products — from cars to kitchen appliances — celebrated the sleek efficiency of the machine age.

“C” IS LARGER THAN “O” TO ACCOUNT FOR THE VISUAL BALANCE OF THE MORE OPEN FORM THE WHITE SPACE ACHIEVES GREATER PENETRATION OF THE FORM MAKING IT SEEM BIGGER

BY OVERLAPPING A Z AND A T OF THE SAME POINT SIZE, VARIATION IN STROKE THICKNESS BECOMES APPARENT.

Z T

Q


u Qrb WEIGHT CHANGE AS THE BOWL TURNS FROM HORIZONTAL TO VERTICAL

u n

n IS LARGER THAN u HERE AS THE TOP IS MORE ACTIVE THAN THE BOTTOM

CONTRAST BETWEEN WHERE THE SPUR MEETS THE STEM CREATES A DYNAMIC SOPHISTICATION

DYNAMIC STROKE VARIATION ON THE TAIL CREATES HORIZONTAL FLARE

INTERACTION BETWEEN THE ASSYMETRIC BOWL AND COUNTER GIVES UNIVERS PERSONALITY

9


A COMPROMISE OF

personality

FUTURA

UNIVERS

AB CDEF GHIJKL M NOPQRSTUVW X Y Z a b c de f ghi j klmno pqrs tuvwxyz AB C D EFGH IJ KLM NOPQRSTUV WXY Z a b c d e f ghijklm nopqr st uvwxyz

Univers is a typeface that embraces

evolution of both Helvetica and Univers.

modernity, yet remains humanistic. On

Frutiger is perceived as warm, friendly

the more geometric side of things, Futura

and approachable, while Univers is, in

has an appearance of efficiency and

comparison, clean, objective, and rational.

forwardness, being derived from simple

The treatment of thick and thin strokes is

geometric forms and is based on strokes

almost identical, as evident in a compar-

of near-even weight, which are low in

ison of the m’s and n’s; and many other

contrast. This is most visible in the almost

letterforms are structurally familiar. The

perfectly round stroke of pthe o, which

major difference between Frutiger and

is nonetheless slightly ovoid. In compari-

Univers is that the letters in the former

son, the varied strokes of Univers made it

tend to be more open, a fact most obvious

much more approachable.

in letters with curves that end in an open-

After Univers, Frutiger designed many other effective typefaces. The typeface

FRUTIGER

AB C D EFG H IJKLM N OP QRSTU VW X Y Z a b cd efghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz

Frutiger, originally called Roissy, was viewed by its creator as a necessary

ing such as C, G, J, c, e, g, s. Any comparison of the Frutiger families reveals that only a slight shift in formal qualities can result in a significantly different emotive effect.


MMM

MORE APPROACHABLE

U

F

LESS GEOMETRIC

QQQ j j j U

F

MORE OPEN

FR

F

U

FR

FR

TAILS VARY IN SHAPE AND DIRECTION

BOTH DESCENDERS AND TITTLES VARY IN SHAPE AND ORIENTATION

MORE FRIENDLY

TERMINALS AND APECES VARY IN SHAPE AND HEIGHT

AAA U

F

ttt U

F

MORE HUMANISTIC

FR

aaa F

U

FR

TOP AND BOTTOM FINIALS VARY IN SHAPE AND CROSSBAR LENGTHS CHANGE

SINGLE / DOUBLE STORIED, VARYING BOWLS AND FINIALS

FR

11


REFERENCES AND

bibliography Blackwell, Lewis. 20th-Century Type. New

Carter, Rob, Ben Day, and Philip B. Meggs.

Haven: Yale University Press, 2004. (A&A:

Typographic Design: Form and Commu-

Z250.A2 B59 1998 and Vault)

nication. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons,

Kunz, Willi. Typography: Macro- and

2002. Print.

Microaesthetics. Sulgen: Verlag Niggli AG,

http://www.linotype.com

2000. (A&A: Z246 .K86 2000 and Vault)

http://www.fonts.com

Carter, Sebastian. Twentieth Century Type Designers. Great Britain: Lund Humphries, 2002. (A&A: Z250 A2 C364 1995 and Vault) Revival of the Fittest: Digital Versions of Classic Typefaces, essays by Carolyn Annand ... [et al.]; edited by Philip B. Meggs and Roy McKelvey, New York: RC Publications, 2000. (A&A: Z250.R45 2000)

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/ commons/5/55/PowerBook_Univers_keycaps.jpg


This book was designed by Justin Chun Him Au in April 2013 for the Communication Design program at the Sam Fox School of Design in Washington University in St. Louis. The typefaces used within the book are Univers by Adrian Frutiger, VistaSans, Futura, and Frutiger


Exploring Univers