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Designed by Adrian Frutiger



Neo-grotesque San Serif

Created in 1957 44 different weights and styles

Aa Bb Cc Dd Ee F Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn O Rr Ss Tt Uu Vv Ww 1234567890

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Ff Gg Hh Ii Oo Pp Qq w Xx Yy Zz ,.:!?


To achieve the goal of an expansive, integrated type family, designers must be sensitive to the nuances of each letterform while also 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,

2 |  Exploring Univers

Frutiger began with the idea that “a purely geometric 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.� 2

Adrian Frutiger

Adrian Frutiger is one of the most important 3

type designers to emerge since WWII. He is the designer of many notable faces and was one of the first designers to create type for film. 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 at Roissy, that Univers seemed dated, with a 1960’s feel. His airport face, originally known as Roissy but renamed Frutiger for its

By overlapping a Z and a T of the same point size, there is a clear variation in stroke thickness. This is a response to Frutiger’s assessment of visual discrepancies in other type-faces. It is also no coincidence that Frutiger’s interest in creating a functional and efficient type family followed well-documented scientific research done in the 1930s and ‘40s on the mechanics of eye movement during reading.

issue to the trade by Mergenthaler Linotype in 1976, is a humanistic sans serif that has been compared to Gill and Johnston types. Frutiger has created a broad range of typefaces including OCR-B a type for optical character

While Frutiger’sultimate goal was to make letters that fit together so flawlessly that the assemblage formed a new satisfying gestalt, he also made sure that individual letterforms remain distinct from one another. To maintain the integrity of each and every letterform, Frutiger made careful optical adjustments for

“Built up from a geometric basis, the lines must play freely, so that the individuals find their own expression and join together in a cohesive structure in word, line, and page.�

individual letterforms based on the current knowledge of the principles of perception.

The c is smaller than the o because in open letters the white space achieves greater penetration into the form, thereby appearing larger.

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.

recognition. His 1982 Breughel is an original face almost wholly comprised of curves and fitting into no existing type category. Frutiger’s goal with the typeface Frutiger was to create a sans-serif typeface with the rationality and cleanliness of Univers but the organic and proportional aspects of Gill Sans. The result is a distinctive and legible typeface. It is extremely popular and is used as the official typeface for various organizations and institutions around the world. Frutiger has embraced new technology and used it to advantage in faces such as Centennial, a modern whose fine serifs are made possible by recent improvements in definition. Frutiger himself is skeptical about theories of legibility. He learned to read with gothic characters without difficulty and says legibility is solely a matter of habit.1

Compared to most fonts (e.g. Garamond) the height of the ascenders and descenders are much shorter, creating the effect of a large x-height. Ascender


55 Roman (200pt)


6 |  Exploring Univers

Ascenders and descenders were shortened in comparison with existing typographic norms, and x-heights were increased. This provided

Garamond Regular (270pt)

greater legibility, addressing the concern that sans-serif type was more difficult to read than serif type. All of these innovations contributed to the overall harmony among letters, allowing for a smooth line flow. 4

Univers:0 Thinner counter Futura:0 Circular counter (geometric) Univers: 0 Flat apex Futura: 0 Pointed Apex Univers:0 Thicker stem Futura:0 Thinner stem Univers:0 Longer arm Futura:0 Shorter arm

(between bowl and stem) Univers: 0 Dramatic taper Futura: 0 Slight taper

Univers:0 Lower crossbar Futura:0 Crossbar cuts letter equally

Univers: 0 Tail runs along baseline Futura: 0 Tail crosses into counter

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Univers: 0 Flattened bowl Futura: 0 Geometric bowl

Univers: 0 Lower tie (dip in ‘y’) Futura: 0 Higher tie

Futura vs Univers

Univers: 0 Curved stem Futura: 0 Straight stem

Futura was designed by Paul Renner in 1927. Although it was not conceived in Germany’s Bauhaus, its appearance embodies the ideoloUnivers: 0 Angled top Futura: 0 Flat top

gies of the movement. Although both typefaces are classified as san serifs, Futura is a geometric sans serif while Univers is a neo-grotesque sans serif. Futura is much more symmetrical in appearance than

Univers: 0 Flatter curve at tail Futura: 0 More distinct curve at tail

Univers: 0 Shorter descender Futura: 0 Longer descender

Univers, and uses geometric shapes in the letterform. It also has much more equal stroke weight in comparison to Univers, and a much more rigid and modular look to it. Univers

Univers: 0 Terminal Futura: 0 No Terminal

contain more slight flourishes, while Futura has no extraneous elements to it.



Univers: 0 Elongated circle counter Gill Sans: Perfect circle counter

Univers: 0 Taller cap height Gill Sans: Lower cap height

Univers: 0 Diagonals meet at bottom Gill Sans: Diagonals meet in the middle      (square proportions)

Univers: 0 Uneven stroke weight (thicker verticals) Gill Sans: Equal stroke weight

Univers: 0 Tail follows baseline Gill Sans: Tail extends beyond

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Gill Sans

Univers: 0 Curved stem Gill Sans: Straight stem Univers: 0 Single story g Gill Sans: Double story g

Gill Sans vs Univers Gill Sans originally conceived in 1926 by Eric

Univers: 0 Flattened bowl (thinner) Gill Sans: Geometric bowl

Gill and painted on a window of a bookstore. It was developed and later released in 1928 as a typeface by Monotype Corporation. Gill Sans is classfied as a Humanist san serif, and this is evident in its flourished appearance in comparison to Univers. It is modelled on Carolingian script, desgined to look like the calligraphic script popular in Europe during the Holy Roman Empire. Thus unlike the realist typeface Univers, Gill Sans was designed with legibility secondary mimicking the standardized Univers: 0 Counter and open loop similar shape Gill Sans: Counter much smaller than open loop


Gill Sans

look of a historical period.

Bibliography Blackwell, Lewis. 20th-Century Type. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004 (A&A:Z250.A2 B59 1998 and Vault) Kunz, Willi. Typography: Macro- and Microaesthetics. Sulgen: Verlag Niggli AG, 2000. (A&A: Z246 .K86 2000 and Vault) 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 Phillip B. Meggs and Roy McKelvey, New York: RC Publications, 2000. (A&A: Z250.R45 2000) References 1. Pincus W.Jaspert, The Encyclopaedia of Typefaces. (Poole, Dorset: Blandfor Press, 1983), 69- 70 2. Alexander S.Lawson, Anatomy of a Typeface (Boston: D.R. Godine, 1990), 304. 3. Jennifer Gibson. Revival of the Fittest: Digital Versions of Classic Typefaces (New York: RC Publications), 171. 4. Ibid, 173

12 |  Exploring Univers

This book was designed by Simin Lim, a communication design student at Washington University in St.Louis. All the text in this book is set in Scala Sans (Regular), and features fronts from the following typeface families: Univers Garamond Futura Gill Sans

Exploring Univers  

Book about Univers typeface. Layout/typesetting project for class

Exploring Univers  

Book about Univers typeface. Layout/typesetting project for class