What we talk about when we talk about typography: A letter, a shape encapsulating a meaning,
a notion, a feeling, an idea. Adrian Frutiger, one of the most renowned graphic designers of the
20th century, was a Swiss artist known for creating some of the most widely used fonts of
our times. You may have seen his work in airports, street signs, and subway stations
around the world without even knowing.
Frutiger played an important part in digitizing typography, and applying his idiosyncratic use of typeface design Growing up in Switzerland and learning conservative design there, Frutiger expressed his
rebellious side, and defied all odds by attempting to think outside the box, and annihilate the
conservative outlook on typography and graphic design. He did that mostly by experimenting
with stylized handwriting and invented scripts, defying the formal, cursive penmanship that was
so prominent in the Swiss realm of graphic design at the time.
One of Frutiger’s most innovative and prominent works was his illustrated essay Schrift /
Écriture / Lettering: the development of European letter types carved in wood. These wood-
engraved essay illustrations displayed meticulous skills and understanding of letterforms. Upon
witnessing these illustrations and his wonderful work, French typeface designer Charles Peignot
assigned Frutiger to convert extant typefaces for the new Linotype equipment, in what was
Frutiger’s first commercial typeface President was released in 1954. It was designed in a way
that showcased a set of tilting capital letters with small, bracketed serifs. It was followed by the
typeface Ondine, which was informal and calligraphic. Later on, Frutiger demonstrated his ideas
of letter construction in the typeface Meridien. Afterward came the typeface Egyptienne, one of
the typefaces that had him commissioned for photo composition.
We are proud to have an example from Frutiger’s development of European letter types
carved in wood, the renowned – ‘La Lettre Avant la Typographie‘ found in the 1957 “Caractere Noel” catalog as part of our collection.