The Adrian Frutiger legacy

“AF” by Heury & Heury — “A” is set in Avenir, “F” in Frutiger, “Tribute to Adrian Frutiger” in Univers, 3 fonts by A.Frutiger

Last week we have been contacted by Ralf Renz Maniego, a student in Visual Communication at the Arts University of Bournemouth, England.
He is tackling an ISTD brief about the typeface designer, Adrian Frutiger, who recently passed away on September 10, 2015, and he was wondering if he could get our personal thoughts regarding his life’s work. His aim is to compile an archive of responses from design enthusiasts, graphic designers, typographers, type designers, and students alike, and in turn, create a prestigious publication that both celebrate and rejoices the legacy of Adrian Frutiger.

You can read our answers bellow.


1) What is the influence of Adrian Frutiger work mean to you?

He marked a turning point in the design of modern type because much more than creating new typefaces, he created a new approach in designing them.

He followed a mathematical logic, and this, (more than trends) transcends time. That can explain in part why, still, his work continue to influence or to be used by designers.

The radical nature and the durability of his work is a great source of inspiration for us.

The unnecessary embellishments seem to be banished to make a room for the simplicity, the neutrality and more importantly the clarity. His typefaces are not just decipherable they are legible. He got straight to the point: to make it clear, to make it understandable. He had provided powerful tools to efficiently convey messages (regardless of the period).

And he said it himself:

“From all these experiences the most important thing I have learned is that legibility and beauty stand close together and that type design, in its restraint, should be only felt but not perceived by the reader.”

Additionally he said:

“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”.

In a way there is something very humble in his work. The designer or even the typeface faded to leave place to the text, the message. It’s pure function but still charming. That is remarquable.

More than his work itself, his work method is inspiring. For Univers, he was the first one to use a numerical system to name the range of weights and styles.

3=thin, 4=light, 5=normal, 6=bold, 7=black, 9=extra black
.3=extended, .5=roman, .6=italic, .7=condensed, .8=condensed italic, .9=ultra condensed

Exemple : 47 = Light Condensed, 76 = Black Italic

This is both simple and brilliant and it symbolizes the rationality and the effectiveness that we deeply appreciate.

Supporters of the minimalist design at Heury & Heury, we find that the work of Adrian Frutiger fits into this framework, and in a way he personifies it.


2) Do you have a favorite Adrian Frutiger typeface? Is it from a
particular weight, size, and maybe even a specific letterform?

There is a dilemma in choosing between Univers, Avenir and Frutiger which are inescapable. We used all of them for our “Tribute to Adrian Frutiger” posters.

Although, if we have to pick one, it would be Univers. It’s a sans-serif typeface, very modern and unique for its time and still nowadays. Univers is so precise and rational (the height of the upper-case is invariable as well as the height of lower-case, cut curve end horizontally).

Some people can find it too strict, too mathematical but it is why we like it so much. Univers is a noticeable typeface: simple, elegant and accommodating. It is legible both in small and big letters. Its family is huge (21 versions) and permits to combine comfortably multiple levels of reading.

Incidentally, in 1957 the typeface had been launched with the slogan:

“Univers — a synthesis of Swiss thoroughness, French elegance and British precision in a pattern manufacture.”

Finally our favourites versions are the 55 Roman (the parent face, the basis from which each variation was developed) and the 45 light (refine, less ink that reinforces the usefulness of the empty space, a minimal nature that is very dear to us).

One more quote from Adrian Frutiger:

‘‘When I put my pen to a blank sheet, black isn’t added but rather the white sheet is deprived of light. […] Thus I also grasped that the empty spaces are the most important aspect of a typeface.’’

We encourage you to give your opinion by commenting this article to enrich the collective debate and the work of Ralf Renz Maniego.
Spread the word. Thank you for reading.

Adrien & Clotilde
— Brother, Sister, both designers