The life’s Work of Adrain Frutiger

Graphic Design

Honours Student:
Taurai Mtake







This project was one of five project briefs as set by the International Society of Typographic Designers (ISTD). The task was to create a prestigious publication that celebrates and pays homage to the life and work of Adrian Frutiger, a Swiss Typeface designer who influenced the direction of type design.

Many designers find it difficult and time consuming to select a typeface for design, not taking the time to research and discover the deeper meaning and processes of the typefaces they choose.

While technological advances are part of the reason why some designers and craft enthusiasts don’t take the time to understand the process and meanings behind certain typeface designs – simply stating their choice because “they like it” or “it looks cool for what I want to do” – not many have access to original designs as well.

In addition, letterpress printing is one method of typeface design that is under threat because of the advent of digital technology. In South Africa, there are only a few typesetters and letterpress printers that remain.

In creating this publication, my aim was to teach other designers and individuals interested in typography about one of the most successful typeface designers in history, paying attention to the meaning and detail in the processes behind his work.

Frutiger once stated, “on my career path I learned to understand that beauty and readability – and up to a point, banality – are close bedfellows. The best typeface is one that impinges least on the reader’s consciousness, becoming the sole tool that communicates the meaning of the writer to the understanding of the reader.”

Here, I understand the word ‘banal’ to refer to something that is boring, ordinary and not interesting, whereas ‘beautiful’ generally denotes something that is pleasing or has exciting aesthetic pleasure.

My interpretation of Frutiger’s view is that in design, the reader should feel comfortable because the letter is both banal and beautiful, that is, ordinary yet aesthetically pleasing. I have used this concept to create my typographic kit, with one family of typeface and numbers. I have also decided to work with Frutiger’s main works of Univers, Frutiger and Aviner for this project.

I feel designers need to understand the technical aspects of typeface design as they are important for them to deepen their understanding of typography and type design. Designers need to learn through doing, rather than just reading and to fully illustrate this, I chose to celebrate the life’s work of Adrian Frutiger who set the standard for typeface design.

The ISTD student assessment scheme, started in 1975, is cited as a model of academic thoroughness and professionalism. Unlike many others, the scheme is not a competition as it considers the holistic achievement – not just the final outcome. The overall design process of research, reflection, strategy, design development, technical and production specification is assessed by teams of practicing designers and educators. We demand this rigorous approach to ensure standards are met and that the award maintains its significance. The only way to become a member of ISTD is through assessment, either student or professional, once membership is awarded it is for life, granted your yearly subscription is met.

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