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Adrian Frutiger’s 1957 Typeface


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ADRIAN FRUTIGER & UNIVERS Adrian Frutiger, one of the most important type designers to emerge since World War II, was born on March 24, 1928 in Switzerland. He studied at the Zurich school of arts and crafts while holding an apprenticeship at a printing firm. It was here in the Zurich school where the earliest forms of Univers began. Frutiger moved to Paris in the early 1950s and was invited to work for the Deberny & Peignot foundry. A couple of years later, the foundry sought to add a sans serif to their line. In 1957, Univers was produced. It was used in film, making Frutiger one of the first designers to create type for film, and hot-metal typesetting.1 Univers is one of Frutiger’s best known typefaces, but he has designed many other notables. Frutiger has said that all his types have Univers as their skeleton. However, when he came to design a face for the Charles de Gaulle Airport at Roissy, he felt that Univers

seemed dated, belonging to the 1960’s. His airport face, originally known as Roissy but renamed Frutiger for its 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 recognition. His 1982 Breughel is an original face almost wholly comprised of curves and fitting into no existing type category. He has embraced new technology and used it to his advantage in faces such as Centennial, a modern whose fine serifs are made possible by recent improvements in definition. More than ten years earlier his Iridium had demonstrated that the classical modern face wasn’t outdated and didn’t necessarily cause legibility problems. 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.2


Aa Bb Cc Dd Ee Ff Gg Hh Ii Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn Oo Pp Qq Rr Ss Tt Uu Vv Ww Xx Yy Zz

3 ADRIAN FRUTIGER & UNIVERS

Univers 55 Roman

U

39

U

U

U

U

U U

45

45

47

47

U

U

U

U

U

U

U

U

U

U

U

U

U U

U

U

U

U

53

63

73

53

63

73

55

65

75

85

U U 93

93

55

65

75

85

57

67

57

67

NUMBERING SYSTEM The Univers family is a large one, ranging from Light Condensed to Extended Black. Frutiger devised a 2-digit numbering system to simplify the adjectival way of naming fonts. The first digit indicates weight, while the second indicates width. For example, Univers Light Ultra Condensed corresponds to Univers 49. Oblique fonts originally correlated with even numbers, but in today’s system they share the same number as their non-oblique counterparts.

49

59


4 TYPOGRAPHY: THE BASICS ascender: portion of the letter that is above the x-height

G

x

capital height: height of the capital letters x-height: height of the main body of lowercase letters

baseline: the line that the letters sit upon

descender: portion of the letter that is below the baseline

TYPEFACES VS. FONTS A typeface is a family of fonts that are based on the same characteristics. Fonts are the variations of a typeface, such as the bold and italic versions. The basic differences in fonts lie in the weight (thickness of stroke), width, and angle of the letterforms.

oblique

italic

Univers Meta Bodoni

Meta Book Meta Bold Meta Italic

typefaces

fonts

sans serif

serif

OBLIQUE VS. ITALIC

SERIF VS. SANS SERIF

Univers contains oblique fonts, the slanted versions of the regular fonts. This differs from italics since obliques mainly change only the angle of the letters. Italics are also angled but additionally mimic the curvature of handwriting, in turn diverging from the original characteristics of the regular font.

Serifs are attachments to strokes. It’s one of the major differences between Arial and Times New Roman.


stem

terminal

finial

main stroke

end of a stroke

a curved terminal

5

shoulder

crossbar

descending stroke

main stroke

horizontal stroke

TYPOGRAPHY: THE BASICS

tail

leg

bowl

downward, sloped stroke

enclosed loop

dot of an i or j

apex

vertex

top junction

bottom junction

junction

meeting point of two strokes

counter

negative space formed by the letter

tittle

throat

spur

the bottom right portion of a G

a projection off of a stroke


6 CHARACTERISTICS 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 Univers’ case, this sophisticated approach to type family design is supported by a well-considered set of typographical characters. Inspired by his study on the limitations of existing sans serifs, Frutiger began with the assumption that “a purely geometric character is unacceptable in the long run, for the horizontal lines appear thicker to the eye than 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.”3

The o on bottom is replaced with a perfect circle that has one stroke width


The vertical stroke is thicker than the horizontal stroke

7 CHARACTERISTICS

The diagonal stroke is thicker than the horizontal stroke

By overlapping T’s and Z’s of the same point size, variation in stroke thickness becomes apparent. Frutiger’s decision to use different stroke thicknesses for the verticals, horizontals, and diagonals was a response to his assessment of visual discrepancies in other typefaces. It is also not coincidental that Frutiger’s interest in creating an efficient and functional type family followed well-documented scientific research done in the 1930s and ‘40s on the mechanics of eye movement during reading.4 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, the lines must play freely,” Frutiger wrote, “so that the individuals find their own expression and join together in a cohesive structure in word, line, and page.” To maintain the integrity of each letterform, careful optical adjustments were made 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.

The c is smaller than the o


8 UNIVERS VS. FUTURA The ascenders and descenders of Univers were shorter than existing typographic norms. Its taller x-heights also aided 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.5 In comparison to Futura, Paul Renner’s 1927 geometric typeface, we can see how Univers differs in rationale. The perpendicular features of Univers establish a stable, horizontal composition, contrasting with the dynamic diagonals of Futura. Univers

dp d p Horizontality permeates Univers—it appears in the terminals, apices, vertices, and even the tail of the Q. Similar is to be said of Futura’s diagonals.

Left: Univers Right: Futura


Futura


UNIVERS VS. FUTURA

10 Univers

jj

legs come to a point

Futura bottom leg branches from top

Futura’s G is circular whereas Univers’ has a sliced edge

The building blocks of Futura, the circle and rectangle, are encapsulated in its j; Univers’ j on the other hand has a finial and a rectangular tittle

Univers’ 57 is stable and upright while Futura’s appears to be moving forward


Univers’ apices and vertices for A, M, N, V, W are horizontally sliced to fit the cap height and baseline while Futura’s extend past the lines, coming to a point

ANY ANY

two-story a

one-story a

slanted terminal

vertical terminal

11


12 UNIVERS VS. HELVETICA NEUE Univers was created almost simultaneously with other successful alphabets: Helvetica (1957) and Optima (1958). While Helvetica had a general clarity and a modern, timeless, neutral effect without any conspicuous attributes (lending to its great success), Univers expressed a rational competence, a factual and cool elegance.6

Univers

Univers

Helvetica Neue The leg of Helvetica Neue’s R is curvier

Univers and Helvetica Neue are like fraternal twins: similar but not identical. Many of their letterforms follow the same structure and share the same genes. The differences between them lie in Univers’ unadornment and straight edges and Helvetica Neue’s subtle accents and curves. Helvetica Neue also has a slightly taller x-height and tends toward having wider capital letters.

The throat of Univers’ G is cornered while Helvetica Neue’s is spurred

Helvetica Neue


13 UNIVERS VS. HELVETICA NEUE

no finial

finial

Helvetica Neue’s question mark is curvier, as seen in the top and bottom bends

more perpendicular junction, cornered counters

curved junction, rounded and flicked counters

Helvetica Neue

Univers

slanted terminal

finial

Looking at the counter formed between 2 and 7, we can see Univers’ straight diagonals and Helvetica Neue’s curves


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FOOTNOTES 1. Pincus W. Jaspert, The Encyclopaedia of Typefaces. (Poole, Dorset: Blandford 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. 5. Linotype Library GmbH. Available at http://www.linotype.com/7-267-713347/univers.html. Accessed November 1, 2005. 6. Images courtesy Typographische Monätsblatter Research Archive. Available at http://www.tm-research-archive.ch. Accessed April 26, 2017.

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 Philip B. Meggs and Roy McKelvey, New York: RC Publications, 2000. (A&A: Z250.R45 2000)

COLOPHON This book was designed by Vanna Vu for Typography I at Washington University in St. Louis. It is set in Univers 57 Condensed, 49 Light Ultra Condensed and Frutiger Light. Meta, Meta Serif, Futura, and Helvetica Neue are also used for comparative and demonstrative purposes. Printed on April 28, 2017.


Univers was used in the 1969 covers of Typographische Monatsblätter, a Swiss typography and design journal 6


U UU U UUU UUU UU U16U UUU UUU UU U UU U UUU UUUU U UU UU UUU UU UU U UU UU UU U UU UUUU U UU UUUU UU UUU UU UUUUU UUU UU UU U UUU UUU U UUU UU UUU UU

Univers: Adrian Frutiger's 1957 Typeface  
Univers: Adrian Frutiger's 1957 Typeface  
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