The Life and Type of Adrian Frutiger

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A headline unexpectedly caught my eye this afternoon. Adrian Frutiger, one of the world’s best known typographers, passed away last week at the age of 87.

Born in Switzerland in 1928, Frutiger experimented with stylized handwriting and penmanship as a boy. As a teen, he apprenticed at the Otto Schlaefli printing house, before being recruited to join the French type foundry, Deberny & Peignot.

Frutiger enjoyed a distinguished career throughout the 1950s and 60s, but a commission for Charles de Gaulle Airport would gave Frutiger the chance to design the typeface that would eventually bear his name and be used on public signage at airports and highways around the world. It is also the font used for corporate branding for a number of organizations including DHL, Raytheon, the Canadian Broadcasting Company, and the British Army and Navy.

One smaller company that uses it was my first employer, Thermomass. A heavy-weight Frutiger typeface was selected for its corporate re-branding in the late 1990s and has been used on letterhead, business cards and (unfortunately) PowerPoint presentations ever since.

As with many renowned designers and artists, Frutiger’s life was one of many interests, notable projects, and even a few tragedies. For a closer look at Frutiger’s life and work, read Linotype’s collection of articles (including additional links at the bottom).