In Memoriam Adrian Frutiger
Just a few days ago another great font designer has passed away, Adrian Frutiger, 24 May 1928 — 10 September 2015. Famous in particular for his fonts Frutiger, Avenir, and the Univers family. His fonts are used throughout the worlds for visual communication like road signs. Much has been written about him: Linotype’s excellent obituary, Adam Twardoch, David Airey, New York Times article. For an interview conducted with Frutiger in 1999, see this Eye Magazine article. An interesting article on Frutiger’s typefaces by Charles Bigelow.
Here I want to recall a different quality of Adrian Frutiger – his interest in the visual language of symbols, their development and interaction. His book “Der Mensch und seine Zeichen” (Signs and Symbols) is a profound study on the development, history, and use of all kind of symbols.
In this book, translated into many languages, Frutiger explores the depth and breath of symbols, but the most important part for him, easily to be seen from the German title, is the human part (“Der Mensch”). Symbols are created, changed, and used by and for humans. His studies exhibit connections between various cultures when it comes to sign usage and design.
He also explores signets as modern sign language, and their importance for visual communcation and identity building.
The book also discusses the development of the Roman alphabet, and of course passes the Univers font family.
My favorite piece is this overlay of “a”s from different fonts, to show that there is a common pattern in these fonts.
He concludes this book with a very wise statement:
Zum Festhalten des Gedankens, zur Vermittlung der Aussage genügen seit langem schon die Alphabet-Zeichen nicht mehr allein. Orientierung und Kommunikation sind heute unmöglich ohne Schemata, Zeichen und Signale. Der geschriebene Ausdruck wird durch die Bildvermittlung notwendig ergänzt.
SInce long the alphabet letters alone do not suffice to take hold of thoughts and to transmit statements. Nowadays, orientation and communication are impossible without schemata, signs and signals. The written expression is necessarily enhanced through image transmission.
After Hermann Zapf, this is now the second loss of the typographic world in this year. We will miss both of them.