Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Typographic Research: Adrian Frutiger

Adrian Frutiger is a Swiss designer, said to be one of the most prominent typeface designers of the 20th century, who continues to influence the direction of digital typography now. He is most famous for creating the typefaces Univers and Frutiger. His work has spanned the hot metal (metal in poured into a mold and set, which is then used to print with), phototypesetting (shining light through a negative of a character in a font, which technically developed the font onto film) and digital typesetting eras.

The French type foundry Deberny Et Peignot recruited Frutiger and he went on to create several typefaces there. Probably his most famous typeface is Univers, which I've been working with today.

Univers was designed by Frutiger in 1954, after Charles Peignot (from Deberny Et Peignot) had been impressed by the success of Futura, which was a simple typeface based on geometric forms. Frutiger thought that instead of the regimentation of Futura, the new font should be based on the neo-grotesque model (neo-grotesque in typeface terms is defined by a regular style design with more open jaws than traditional grotesque type, and the 'g' is open tailed, and the ends of curved strokes are usually oblique). 

When Univers was released, it was classified in a table of different weights and widths. Frutiger designed this with the intention of making the classification of typefaces easier to understand. Instead of 'light', 'bold', 'oblique', etc, typefaces were given a numerical value (e.g 55), where the first digit represents the weight and the second digit represents the width and position of the typeface. All even numbers are italic. This idea never 'caught on' because printers weren't willing to change their language. 
As the Univers family extended from 21 typefaces up to 44, the numbering system extended to three digits, with the third digit representing position (i.e oblique or Roman). 

Univers has had extensive usage, and is still used in several places. It is commonly used in the UK for exams and tests, as it makes the letters I and 1, for instance, easy to distinguish. It was also used for a while by Apple for the keycaps of its keyboards, and some but not all London boroughs use Univers for their signs. 


These are the pieces of work I created with Univers. We weren't allowed to use computers, so we had to photocopy our fonts from type sheets, and then copy them, trace them or stick them onto our final pieces.
The first piece was created in a group, and I was responsible for the background and the word 'Inevitable'. I didn't have all the letters I needed, so I was forced to mix and match italic, regular, large, small, upper and lowercase letters. I didn't like this piece all that much, since I felt like the background wasn't very good, and the 'Univers' I had written to show which font we used seemed really strange next to our text.
The second piece is an Ansel Adams quote I am planning on using for my final piece. I created this with Univers, but this time I used the combination of different styles and sizes intentionally. I wanted to get a more chaotic feel with this piece, so I tried to make the piece feel like a ransom note, throwing lots of different ways of interpreting the type into one piece. This did, however, make the piece harder to read, in my opinion, and I'll have to look into this when I experiment more.