• 09.15.15

RIP Type Design Legend Adrian Frutiger

The Swiss designer behind Univers, Avenir, and the eponymous Frutiger fonts has died at the age of 87.

RIP Type Design Legend Adrian Frutiger
[Photo: Flickr user InvernoDreaming]

Adrian Frutiger, the legendary type designer who created Univers, Avenir, and the eponymous Frutiger typeface, died on Saturday at the age of 87.


Frutiger–along with the late Hermann Zapf, who died early this year–was one of the most influential type designers of the 20th century, creating over 30 typefaces over the course of his long career. An early adopter of new technologies, Frutiger was one of the few designers whose career spanned hot metal, photographic, and digital typesetting.

Born in 1928 in Unterseen, Switzerland, Frutiger grew up wanting to be a sculptor but was discouraged by his father. After taking an apprenticeship with a local printer, he studied at Kunstgewerbeschule in Zurich under Walter Käch, whose teachings on Roman Forum rubbings gave Frutiger his first love of letterforms. In 1952, Frutiger went to Paris to work for Deberny & Peignot foundry, where he received international acclaim, first for his font Meridien and then for the Univers font system. Revolutionary for its 21 variations and corresponding number system that signaled the weight and width of the characters, Univers has been used by brands like Deutsche Bank, General Electric, Apple, and CNN.

In 1960, Frutiger established a design studio with Andre Gürtler and Bruno Pfäffli, where his commissions included logotypes, signage systems, and maps, with clients such as Air France, IBM, and the Swiss Post Office.

Typefaces by Adrian FrutigerImage: via Wikipedia

In 1975, Frutiger created the eponymous Frutiger typeface for the wayfinding signage at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. The font, which uses wide kerning and simple geometries so that it’s legible at a distance or while traveling at high speed, has been described by Erik Spiekermann as “the best typeface in the world for the Latin alphabet.” In an article in the Swiss magazine Hochparterre for Frutiger’s 80th birthday in 2008, Spiekermann wrote, “It combines the talent of an unassuming designer who has devoted over fifty years to these little characters with the knowledge and experience of all the technology that has come and gone in that time. . . . He stands alongside Garamond, Caslon, Bodoni, Gill and the other typeface designers who expressed and captured their epochs for posterity.”

Over the weekend, Spiekermann and other type lovers, designers, and foundries took to Twitter to pay tribute to the late designer:

You can read more about Frutiger’s life here.


About the author

Meg Miller is an associate editor at Co.Design covering art, technology, and design.