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If you think you know who this book is about, you are probably wrong. M I S T A K E N He is not your typical instigator. This is not your typical book.


That is not to say his revolution was an obscure one, the kind that appears in the Everyday Heroes section of Reader’s Digest, or Upworthy, (or wherever you go these days to get your quick shot of inspiration). No.

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His WORK made headlines. It appeared on signboards. Books were written, and it was widely featured in magazines.

All of you have read his revolution, yet know nothing of it.

The understated genius. But for all his eloquence, he was much too polite to write it himself.

please b ear w ith me .

and this useless preface.

So you’re stuck with me



REVOLUTION—IST Mr. Frutiger was born on May 24, 1928, in Unterseen, Switzerland. As a child, his dream was to become a sculptor. (Truthfully, it was a lousy an profession unless you were Michelangelo reincarnate).

u n S ta b le

In any case, Mr. Frutiger (adolescent) started an apprenticeship with a local printer. He then stuck himself at the University of Applied Arts (Kunstgewerbeschule) where he fell in love with letterforms. In 1952, he struck a job with the Deberny and Peignot foundry.

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Working with hot metal was my first experience of the power of type to make the whole spiritual world of thought legible.

He had become a typeface designer,

though nobody predicted how extraordinary.


Type designers relieve the burden of legibility. If everybody was left to their own devices to render their ideas even the least legible, it would be a bloody mess. chaos . (Some folks barely draw letterforms; more miniature catastrophes).

Type designers develop regulated systems of lines and curves and spaces which the general citizenry use to communicate smoothly. Technically, any published work is a collage of their typographic designs. Though nobody ever credits them as such.

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Mr. Frutiger is omnipresent through his typefaces and influence. He designed serif typefaces, but his genius is most obvious in his sans serifs. The brilliant, poetic beauty of his designs reside just out of focus where they are overlooked. Just like he wished.

In September, 2015, he took his leave. Not without guiding humanity into a better understanding of type’s purpose and expression. He dedicated more than 50 years to make the world more legible and he did not gloat even half as much as you.

He was one of the few designers who was present for all of typesetting’s evolutionary milestones; from hot metal, to photographic and then digital. Implemented gently, his impact was colossal.

It was a revolution founded on three principles. This is not the point where I tell you what they are.


The Pledge to be

I n v isi b le


Type makes itself invisible to the extent that it is legible.



On my career path, I learned to understand that beauty, readability, and (to a certain point) banality, are close bed fellows.

A typeface fails is ineffecti v e if the person reading it is constantly aware of the typeface. Their attention is spl

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The best typeface is the one that impinges least on the reader’s consciousness, becoming the sole tool that communicates the meaning of the writer to the understanding of the reader.

Basically, reading should be


it between the message of the content and the designer’s bleeding A P P A R E N T self-indulgence / incompetence.

Therefore, a typeface’s form should create as less friction as possible in transferring information.



If you remember the shape of a with which you just ate some soup, then the spoon had a poor shape For a typeface to go unnoticed is the greatest compliment a typographer can receive.

Type hoists up content like a flag and puts it

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at the very top of a reader’s awareness.

T Y P E G O ALS You cannot stop the mind from reading something that can be read. The ultimate goal then - or even the duty - of type is for you to not be aware it’s there.



On a sign, type places different demands on readers than when it is in a book. When you are driving a car, or even walking, you have to be able to recognize the letters immediately.

When architect Paul Andreu of the redesigned Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris came to Mr. Frutiger for its typographic requirements, he already had a slick sans serif typeface under his belt. It was called Univers, released in 1957. There was nothing to stop him from using the same font. But Mr. Frutiger’s keen sense of shape and space made him slightly obsessed. delirious. type f u nctions .

Tested in all manner of lighting conditions and distances, he designed a new, bespoke typeface.

The typeface that bears his name; it was even more legible, and is perhaps the most legible typeface.



You encounter Mr. Frutiger’s designs on a regular basis, at airports, on way finding, when you open a magazine, newspaper, or a book.




Univers (1956)









Devanagiri (1968)

Frutiger (1968)

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Why were Mr. Frutiger’s typefaces so successful?

Because he solved honest needs— like legibility, and then some.

Vectora (1972)












Nami Pro (1993)



— do not consider this a complete list.



S u b conscio u s N arrati v e


When you read, you are busy looking at the strokes; any type designer with the slightest brain is concerned with the

e x perience

Adding black means removing white.

In the end, Mr. Frutiger became an exceptional sculptor—of space on a 2 dimensional plane.

T he s u b conscio u s narrati v e

MR. FRUTIGER: Typography must be as beautiful as a


窶馬ot like the concrete deserts of suburbia). A forest is not a single complex; there are distances between the trees which provide space to breathe and live. You need to leave space for the reader to breathe.


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... is a second, subconscious narrative. You must realize, with Mr. Frutiger, you do not simply read words.

T he s u b conscio u s narrati v e

In the 1950s, phototypesetting had begun to displace metal type. The post-war atmosphere also caused a rush to develop

a truly modern typeface;

Helvetica was a solution to this demand

They are known for being

highly legible sans serifs.

Univers was a solution to this demand

Helvetica’s capitals seem more expanded than the capitals of Univers. Univers has greater stroke modulations than Helvetica.

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I concede, it is difficult to see a groundbreaking difference in individual character forms. Now, consider the following:

minimum minimum

Helvetica 55 Roman

Univers 55 Roman

Y o u w ill

You should notice,

the biggest difference is in the spaces between the letters. The additional white space in Mr. Frutiger’s typefaces is comforting to the reader.

T he s u b conscio u s narrati v e

weighs you down, LIKE A HEAVY MASS unloadING IN YOUR brain. Helvetica (1957)

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Passes through like a g e n t l e

b r e e z e




Univers (1957)

Space is a reader’s oxygen. With Mr. Frutiger, it is also poetry.


The Big



1957 Univers comes into commercial being. It was the first of many miracles that Mr. Frutiger would gift to the typeset word.

T he B I G B A N G

The Beginning & the End If you have been with me since the beginning, I congratulate you for having an adequate attention span you will remember that Univers

and Helvetica were released at the same time. They were intended for use by the Lumitype Photon, the first phototypesetting system. In the days of metal type, a font had a maximum of three variations: roman, italic, and semi-bold. On release, Helvetica had two weights. Univers had




The Deberny and Peignot type foundry initially planned to adapt Futura for the Lumitype Photon; popular in metal type, so why not for the new system? Their solution was fatally deprived of imagination. Was short - sighted .

Mr. Frutiger was working with the foundry at the time. He saw the new technology, took into account the new potential, and envisioned a completely different solution. He squared up and politely asked permission from Charles Peignot to offer an alternative. Mr. Frutiger always appreciated Peignot’s courage for giving a young designer like him a chance.

four. five. six. seven eight.nine. ten. eleven.twelve. thirteen. fourteen. fifteen. sixteennineteen . seventeen eighteen twenty twenty one.

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I was completely immersed in this stage of inventing, the way only a young man can be. This was such an intensive time that sometimes I actually trembled.

It took him just ten days to come back with an extended typeface of sixteen variations. When Peignot saw them, he nearly jumped in the air: Good Heavens, Adrian,

That’s the future!

T he B I G B A N G


The vast number of font weights (the first time for ones based on the same basic concept)

enabled the designers to fit ‘the clothing’ to the content and not the other way around.

The variations that Univers offered were revolutionary. The big advertising agencies were also being set up at this time. It had been one type face, three variations: miserable odds for capturing any of the diversity of human communication. They latched onto the new model at once. Every design that Mr. Frutiger imagined thereafter also had extended variations; it became the aspirational standard for all typefaces.

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elePHANT? Peter, I need to know.

T he B I G B A N G

Visually cohesive yet diversely expressive; any publication of this nature is a product of the big bang in 1957. Many other fonts (including your beloved Helvetica) were extended only after Mr. Frutiger’s Univers, according to his system which continues to expand.


E pilog u e

Mr. Frutiger’s designs are like tidal

es th


at happen

out at sea. Whose impact eludes us on account of his legendary modesty. He saw a need; He designed; He solved — he did this quite a lot. There came a point when Mr. Frutiger felt like if he were to design anymore, he could only repeat himself.

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Ultimately, Mr. Frutiger left us with a body of work that was highly legible, broadly applicable, and infused with meaning...

the sum total being more than enough to satisfy ALL our communication needs. You ask but what of a revolution? Were you not paying attention? Mr. Frutiger’s designs are everywhere; quiet agents of this three-part movement — comprehensive and complete.

E pilog u e


But I don’t want to claim the glory. It was simply the time, the surroundings, the country, the invention, the postwar period and my studies during the war. Everything led towards it. It could not have happened any other way.

Is the written word not more profound for him having lived? We thank you. S I R


Proof I am not a mad man, rambling. REFERENCES ‘Adrian Frutiger, font designer – obituary’ (2015). The Telegraph. 13 October [Online]. Available at: Adrian-Frutiger-font-designer-obituary.html (Accessed: 20 October 2015, after a week of confined solitary grieving). Dezeen Magazine (2015). Adrian Frutiger, type designer…dies aged 87. Available at: (Accessed: same as above). Fox, M. (2015) ‘Adrian Frutiger Dies at 87; His Type Designs Show You the Way.’ The New York Times, 18 September [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: same as above). Obituary titles are pathetic. N O T


Frutiger, A. (1999) ‘Reputations: Adrian Frutiger.’ Interview with Adrian Frutiger. Interviewed by Yvonne Schwemer-Scheddin for the Eye Magazine, Spring 1999. (Accessed: 1999). Greisner, William (2015) Adrian Frutiger, Remembered. Available at: html (Accessed: October, 2015). Kobayashi, A. (May 2008) Understand Adrian Frutiger’s methodology! Available at: (Accessed: often. It was here that I discovered the subconscious narrative and abandoned all other forms of poetry.)

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Linotype (N.p.) Type – Adapted to Everyday Life. Available at: html (Accessed: This is fast getting tiresome). Osterer, H. & Stamm, Philipp (2008) Adrian Frutiger – Typefaces. The Complete Works [Online]. Available at: s?id=sB1WWNLIqRMC&pg=PA459&lpg=PA459&dq=avenir+linotype+fr utiger&source=bl&ots=9oXfZzbFd0&sig=H_g6qywyPoDr2sVQs2uAQZ2B ao&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj6iNOl6PPKAhVMcY4KHYSSD3EQ6AEI RjAI#v=onepage&q=avenir%20linotype%20frutiger&f=false (Accessed). Siebert, J. (2015) Adrian Frutiger 1928-2015. Available at: https://www. (Accessed). Spiekermann, E. (2008) Adrian Frutiger: Mr. Univers. Available at: (Accessed).

Images (in order of apperance) aerodynamic swimmer - shutterstock_92017925 Nielson, B. (2015) Forest Light Rays [Online]. Available at: http:// Elephant framed (2010). Available at: au/2013/07/04/the-6b-elephant-in-the-room/

The Polite Revolutionist  

If you think you know who this book is about, you're probably wrong.

The Polite Revolutionist  

If you think you know who this book is about, you're probably wrong.