Magazine article Eye : The International Review of Graphic Design

A Life in Parallel Columns

Magazine article Eye : The International Review of Graphic Design

A Life in Parallel Columns

Article excerpt

A life in parallel columns Adrian Frutiger Typefaces: The Complete Works Edited by Heidrun Osterer, Philipp Stamm, Swiss Foundation Type and Typography Birkhäuser, £79.90, Euros 99.90

Reviewed by Yves Peters

Adrian Frutiger (Switzerland, b. 1928) is one of the most important type designers of the latter half of the twentieth century (see 'Reputations', Eye no. 31 vol. 8). His Univers was the first rationalised type system; his ocr-b broke new grounds in automatic character recognition; and his alphabet for the Paris airport is a milestone of contemporary type design. This book, compiled in close collaboration with Frutiger, retraces his life through his typeface creations in chronological order. As Frutiger's career spans all the different typesetting technologies - from lead composition to the current OpenType digital font format - it also is a unique document of the practice of type creation from the 1950s to the present day.

The book as an object is quite impressive. The oversized, heavy tome - casebound in a hard cover covered with red cloth, with a stylishly understated uncoated dust jacket - rests nicely in one's lap. It is beautifully designed by Feinherb, Visuelle Gestaltung (aka Philipp Stamm and Heidrun Osterer). The functional layout combines its parallel narratives and the extensive image captions into one coherent flow.

The quality of the content is amazing. After an initial section focusing on Frutiger's early life and education, each chapter is dedicated to a typeface - ranging from established classics over lesser-known releases to so-far-unpublished projects. Each typeface is critically assessed in interviews with Frutiger and placed within its context. The typefaces are comprehensively documented, including creation history, technical specifications and measurements, design details, comparisons with similar or related typefaces, release history, and so on.

With 1000-plus illustrations there is plenty to look at. The images are exceptional and beautifully reproduced. They include some real gems - sources of inspiration, early sketches and production drawings, reproductions of vintage advertisements and original specimens, photographs of typefaces in use, and numerous sample settings. Reading the book is very much like uncovering a long-lost treasure, as a significant number of them are previously unpublished. Seeing for the first time the foldout reproducing the India ink drawing of an early sans serif, dated February 1950, complete with pencilled annotations and corrections, sent shivers down my spine.

When approaching a highly specialist area like type design one could easily end up with an obtuse and hermetic volume. …

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