Ladies and Gentlemen... Adrian Frutiger

A belated farewell to a pioneer of modern type 

Adrian Frutiger (born May 24, 1928 in Unterseen, Switzerland) is regarded as one of the most important typographic designers of the 20th century. His most notable works Frutiger, Univers, and Avenir, are landmark sans-serif families spanning the three main genres of sans-serif typefaces: neogrotesque, humanist and geometric.

Frutiger observed that“Typography in Switzerland was more oriented to the sans-serif than to Roman type” . In the world of typography, the typeface sans-serif falls into the family of fonts that eschew small projecting features, or lines at the end of strokes. Sans-serif includes a category known as “grotesque” “ Much can be covered up with serifs,” Frutiger observed. “The grotesque is like the body of a fish, it is so smooth that no mistake can be allowed to happen.”

Today, rather belatedly, we say farewell to one of the pioneers of modern type. As a man, a gentleman, a designer, and a genius.


The typeface 'Frutiger' was actually designed for an airport ; The Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris by Fruitger in 1975. Fruitger had developed the former Univers, another sans serif font, but wanted to create something unique that would reflect the contemporary architecture of the Parisian airport. This typeface is known for having prominent ascenders and descenders (the parts of the letterforms that stick up and down like 'l' and 'p') and wide apertures (or partially-enclosed openings inside letters like 'e'and 'n'). 

'Frutiger' is a humanist sans-serif typeface, intended to be clear and highly legible at a distance or at small text sizes.

'Frutiger' in use:


Univers (condensed bold) has become known as the font used on all London street signs. It is also used on notable brand identities such as Ebay, Swiss Airlines, Microsoft keyboard letters and Unicef (below). This font was released in 1957. 

Univers is a memeber of the neo-grotesque sans-serif family. The neo-grotesque typefaces were all released in 1957, these include Folio and Neue Haas Grotesk (later renamed Helvetica). As all are based on Akzidenz-Grotesk, the three faces are sometimes confused with each other. These typefaces figure prominently in the Swiss Style of graphic design.

Univers in use:


Frutiger considers Avenir his finest work. 'The quality of the draughtsmanship – rather than the intellectual idea behind it – is my masterpiece...It was the hardest typeface I have worked on in my life. Working on it, I always had human nature in mind. And what's crucial is that I developed the typeface alone, in peace and quiet – no drafting assistants, no-one was there. My personality is stamped upon it. I'm proud that I was able to create Avenir.'

Avenir is a modern typeface that has become used on prestigious brands including Apple, Kinfolk (below left), City of Amsterdam and Nationwide.

Avenir in use:

Fruitger in use (left) -, (right) -

Univers in use (left) -, (right) -

Avenir in use (left) -, (right) -