Univers — 60 at 60

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VBAT Refreshing
Sep 21, 2017 · 6 min read

Written by Connie Fluhme

Adrian Frutiger Univers 1956 Poster by Caitlin Gettinger 2014

In 1957, Adrian Frutiger’s sans-serif typeface Univers was released by French type foundry Deberny & Peignot , the same year that Helvetica was released by the Haas Type Foundry. Since then, Helvetica has received a wider acknowledgement and gained fame as the ubiquitous sans-serif typeface with Univers being somewhat neglected.

Image: Courtesy of printmag.com

In 2017 Univers and Helvetica both celebrate 60 years since their release, with the Univers — 60 at 60 project aiming to celebrate the Univers typeface, giving it some attention which it deserves.

To do this, VBAT’s Craig Berry and a group of his friends and colleagues have used the typeface in all of it’s weights to produce 60 individual posters between them. Each unique and celebrating the typeface in its own way.

The people involved in this project are graphic designers, digital designers, editorial designers, typographers, visual artists and beyond. Regardless of their profession, typefaces play such a big role in what they do.

Craig always loved the typeface Univers, he regularly uses it in his own work and he used it during University and therefore wanted to create and coordinate this project. On Instagram he has been uploading 1 poster each day since the start of September.

Univers Facts

The typeface that made Adrian Frutiger famous around the world has its origins in exercises that he worked on way back in 1949, as a 21-year-old at the Zurich School of Arts and Crafts.

Its starting point is the regular font (Univers 55), from which all others are derived. The contrast is balanced in such a way that the font is suitable even for long texts. Frutiger placed great importance on the range of differences in weight between capitals and minuscules, and the x-height is unusually large for a font of that period.

In an extensive interview with Eyemagazine, Frutiger told the story about how Univers was born:

Studies for a Sans-serif type, Zürich, 1950/51 (teacher, Walter Käch). Source: Linotype

At that time I could draw quickly, so I drew the letter forms on scrap card and stuck them together. I developed the font style by using the short word ‘monde’. Here I had an ascender, an ‘o’, an ‘m’. It came together quickly and I also had a good draftswoman to help me. We made about sixteen variations of ‘monde’ and I assembled them in the form of a star. When Peignot saw it he almost jumped in the air: ‘Good heavens, Adrian, that’s the future!’ He grasped at once that a multi-faceted tool was suddenly being placed in the hands of the advertising industry.”

Left: original drawings for Univers, 1952, with optical corrections for fototype setting. Right: In the Deberny & Peignot studio: Ladislas Mandel (standing) draws the expanded version, being examined by Adrian Frutiger (seated). Lucette Girard is cutting preparatory letters. Source: Linotype.

Frutiger originally proposed to call the font ‘Le Monde’ (Editor’s note: French for ‘the world’, )but it was too French, and also Galaxy’, but Charles Peignot called it ‘Univers’.

A peak into the Univers — 60 at 60 project:

If you are into typography and appreciate the Univers — 60 at 60 initiative, this is the moment you should go on Instagram and follow all these young designers, who pay their tribute to a big typographer. Initiatives like this are great and need to be appreciated.

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written by Connie Fluhme
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Inside VBAT

Weekly blog posts by Creatives from VBAT, on different…

Inside VBAT

Weekly blog posts by Creatives from VBAT, on different topics related to Retail, Branding, Packaging, Innovation and Design in and around Amsterdam.

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Inside VBAT

Weekly blog posts by Creatives from VBAT, on different topics related to Retail, Branding, Packaging, Innovation and Design in and around Amsterdam.

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