Introducing the Profile Series and Adrian Frutiger

This will be the first in a series of profiles. I'm not interested in rich famous celebrities, or deceased legends. When choosing a person to profile, I do not consider whether the figure is alive or dead, well known or obscure. The only criterion is that the person be someone who made it their life’s work to find or create something special, and I believe that is a story worth telling.

As a fan of typography, I have chosen to first profile Adrian Frutiger (b. May 24, 1928).

Whether you recognize the name Adrian Frutiger or not, there is a very large chance that you would certainly recognize one of the many typefaces that he created. As the son of a weaver, growing up in Switzerland, Adrian Frutiger was fascinated by writing—handwriting that is. From a very early age, he was drawn to perfecting his penmanship, experimenting with new invented scripts, much to the chagrin of his weaver father and instructors who required cursive penmanship.

At the age of 16, Frutiger sharpened his calligraphy skills while he was an apprentice for four years as a compositor in Zurich. It was not long before his skills were noticed. A meticulous illustrated essay that Frutiger had carved into wood caught the eye of Charles Peignot, of the Paris foundry Deberny Et Peignot. Peignot was highly impressed with Frutiger’s skills and recruited him to design new typefaces to be utilized by the new phototypesetting Linotype equipment.

This was the birth of Adrian Frutiger's first commercial typeface, Président. This would turn out to be the first of many commercial typefaces to be created by Frutiger. Between 1954 and 2009, he released 30 typefaces, and has won many awards for his work in typography including receiving the Typography Award from The Society of Typographic Aficionados and being inducted in the European Design Hall of Fame.

Frutiger is well known for creating custom designed fonts that have been applied in many different ways from logos, to watch faces, to type to be displayed for the Charles de Gaulle airport. My personal favorites is Univers. Throughout his life, Frutiger has not only created many notable typefaces, but is also an accomplished sculptor, painter, instructor, and the author of many excellent books about type and design. Adrian Frutiger approaches every new typeface design as if it is a sculpture, and up and coming typography students could learn plenty from studying his work and philosophies.